At the University of Copenhagen, a Surgical Skills Lab (SSL) utilizes a variety of learning methods to increase veterinary students’ comfort with surgical procedures before they work on live animals. This approach has been found to be beneficial on many levels.
From a humane standpoint, it reduces the use of live animals in the veterinary teaching hospital. From the financial standpoint, the method is less expensive, as the purchase and care of live animals is costly while the animal simulations are low-tech stuffed toys filled with balloons or other everyday materials. This learning method has also proven beneficial to the students.
Research Shows Value of Online and Animal Simulations for Veterinary Students
Dr. Rikke Langebaek, Senior Veterinarian in the University’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Science, has shown that the use of a combination of self-paced online materials and animal simulation models prior to working with live animals reduced anxiety, increased confidence, and resulted in fewer mistakes when veterinary students reached the point of working with live animals.
Her study included interviews with students after their SSL experience and a comparison of heart rate changes during surgical procedures between students who participated in the SSL before live animal work and those who did not. The results of Dr. Langebaek’s work will be available in various veterinary journals. One article has already been published in a Danish journal, and three more have been submitted, or are in press, with English-language veterinary journals.
The University of Copenhagen’s Veterinary Surgical Skills Lab
The SSL takes a four-step approach in presenting the information, initially allowing students to review online power-point presentations and videos on the procedures they will learn, then providing them with low-tech stuffed animals for initial practice before moving on to cadavers, and finally live animals.
Having the videos and PowerPoint presentations online allows the students to study at their own pace. They can review each presentation as many times as they like until they are comfortable with the information. From there, the students spend several days working with the canine and feline simulations.
In addition to being a close approximation of the real thing, the atmosphere in the SSL is more relaxed than an operating theatre because the students, while focused on learning the skills, are also able to have fun with the process, as there was no danger of causing harm to a live animal. Dr. Langebaek told Decoded Science that the students who went through the skills lab were also better able to focus and draw on their knowledge from practice sessions when they reached the stage of working with a live animal.
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