Cathy joined the staff of Berkshire Veterinary Hospital in 1977. It is especially appropriate that as this web site goes online Cathy is receiving national recognition as second runner-up in the Veterinary Technician Excellence in Veterinary Nursing Award. Over 150 applicants from across the United States were considered for this award. We are very proud of Cathy. The award article that follows is as it appears in the February issue of the Veterinary Technician magazine.
Cathy Hall: Portrait of a Happy Technician
At a time when much of the veterinary technician profession is experiencing growing pains and job dissatisfaction, it is refreshing to speak with Cathy Hall, CVT, Head Technician at Berkshire Veterinary Hospital in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Cathy recently captured the second runner-up position in the Veterinary Technician Excellence in Veterinary Nursing Award, sponsored by Nutramax Laboratories, Inc., makers of Cosequin. However she has possessed for years a prize that many struggle for an entire career to achieve-contentment and fulfillment in her work.
Cathy’s nomination letter, submitted by practice owner Dr. Gerald Lemieux, is filled with such words as “enjoy”, “excitement”, and “love” to describe Cathy’s attitude toward her job, patients, and clients. Even more impressive is the fact that this is an attitude Cathy has maintained for 21 years at the same practice! A love of animals drew Cathy into the profession at an early age; she began volunteering at Berkshire Veterinary Hospital when she was only 16 years old. A short time later, Cathy graduated from the veterinary technology program at Holliston Junior College and was hired as a full-time employee of the hospital-and Dr. Lemieux has counted his lucky stars ever since! “As a practice owner, I cannot overemphasize the value of a fellow professional like Cathy,” says Dr. Lemieux. “She has been enthusiastic and proactive about moving ahead with the times for an incredible 21 years. Cathy has the unusual ability to pass tremendous knowledge and experience on to other technicians and to help new veterinarians feel comfortable in the practice. She has grown with our practice and contributed substantially to our success.”
The list of things Cathy accomplishes at work before 8:00 AM seems enough to fill almost an entire day. She sometimes starts her day as early as 5:30 AM-a starting time she chooses in order to ensure that the “back-room” is under control when the veterinarians arrive. Throughout the day, Cathy clearly enjoys her patients. “She is often the first to notice that a patient needs a new blanket or a cage cleaned,” says Dr. Lemieux. It is routine to find Cathy grooming patients as they recover from anesthesia.” Cathy has a special affinity for Golden Retrievers (she has three of her own), and she rarely lets one with a matted coat leave the hospital without a grooming.
Cathy says one of the things she enjoys most about her job is the variety it provides. “I like that every day is different-different clients, different patients, different procedures,” she says. “And I really enjoy simply being able to be there to help. I know how much my animals mean to me, and I’m glad I can make a difference for other people and their animals.”
Cathy gives much credit for her ability to succeed to Dr. Lemieux, who she says has been a wonderful teacher and very supportive through the years. “Dr. Lemieux is very open to showing us new things and is wonderful about keeping; the hospital equipped with the latest equipment,” she says, “if I’m interested in it, he buys it!” And when Dr. Lemieux does buy new equipment, Cathy is ready to learn. “Whether it’s endoscopy or ultrasound, Cathy knows the setup and is ready to learn as the procedure is done,” says Dr. Lemieux. “We recently learned that a Doppler unit is more accurate for blood pressure measurement in cats. The Doppler unit requires more technical skill in obtaining readings, but Cathy quickly became adept, and she was excited about it.”
Her well-equipped practice has allowed Cathy to develop several fields of interest, including dentistry and ultrasonography. Cathy is the practice’s primary dental hygienist, and she has improved record keeping in this area by initiating the use of a more detailed dental chart that records the depth of every gingival pocket, all missing and extracted teeth, and more. We used to use a much less detailed label,” says Dr. Lemieux, “but Cathy felt this new chart was more in keeping with our hospital’s goal of maintaining the most complete records possible.”
Cathy’s ability to adapt to the changes in the profession during her career is largely due to her commitment to continuing education (CE). She consistently attends technician conferences, including the annual Veterinary Technician EXPO. She also keeps her skill and knowledge sharp by participating in the Veterinary Technician CE program, in which she submits monthly quizzes to obtain CE credit. In 1994, Cathy took the Massachusetts Veterinary Technician Certification Examination and became a certified technician. However, Cathy feels that technicians who are not licensed or certified should not be assumed to be less skilled or knowledgeable. “I was only licensed 5 years ago,” she says. I have worked with people that were hired off the street and, with the proper training, they are just as good and do just as much as I do.”
Cathy does much to promote the profession and her practice. For more than 10 years, she has acted as an advisor for Veterinary Explorer Post 730, a program in which interested high-school students get a feel for the veterinary profession by coming into the hospital once a week and accompanying the technicians as they work. Berkshire also supports many local organizations by performing rabies clinics, and Cathy is a frequent volunteer.
When not at work, animals are still very much a part of Cathy’s life. She lives on a farm in rural Massachusetts, which she shares with three Golden Retrievers, three Percheron draft horses, zebra finches, parakeets, and some newly acquired chickens. One of Cathy’s off-duty passions is canine obedience training. Carrie, one of Cathy’s Goldens, has achieved the companion dog level (first level) of obedience training. Carrie is also a licensed therapy dog, and she and Cathy spend many hours visiting area nursing homes as well as Berkshire Medical Center’s hospitalized patients. In both 1993 and 1994, Cathy received the Outstanding Volunteer Award from Berkshire Medical Center.
The Impact the Excellence in Veterinary Nursing Award recognition has had on Cathy is one of professional reaffirmation. “I have never had my spirits boosted so much,” she says, “This has made me feel that everything I have done in the past 21 years has been worth it.” It has certainly been worth it to Dr. Lemieux. “Our technicians have a lot of responsibility, and Cathy has exceeded our expectations.” Clients often ask Cathy why she doesn’t become a veterinarian. Her response has always been — “because I am doing what I want to do”.