Teaching tools aid students in developing key practical skills

Published: 21 March 2023

Low-cost surgical training models have been developed that could play a valuable role in helping veterinary students master essential surgical skills.

Researchers from the surgical team at the at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Medicine’s Hospital for Small Animals developed and tested three-dimensional, low-cost training models to help undergraduate students master some of the core surgical skills they are expected to demonstrate competency in prior to graduation.

The models were developed in response to a lack of practical experience available to students during the Covid-19 pandemic and they could now be incorporated into the teaching curriculum.

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Researchers developed their models in response to feedback from students regarding pandemic lockdowns, who said that the associated restrictions had limited their opportunities to gain practical experience and limited their development of core surgical skills.

The models are designed to mimic three of the 13 published core skills that are viewed as being day one competencies – essential for a newly graduated veterinarian.

Students indicated they wanted more experience in the skills for which the models were designed – how to perform a canine castration, repair an eyelid laceration, and remove a skin lump.

Low-cost, easily accessible materials were used to make the models, to ensure they were affordable and reproducible.

The models represent real-life procedures and allow each step to be performed, so that students have a valuable learning experience.

Students who used the models found that their competence in performing the procedures significantly improved within a few attempts.

Almost all said their use had helped to build surgical confidence and reduce stress associated with the required skills. Most said the models were realistic and helpful for their practices.

Details of the research are published in the Veterinary Record. Their development was supported by the University of Edinburgh Principal's Teaching Award Scheme.

"Low-cost surgical models can be an invaluable aid for veterinary teaching, and our research shows that undergraduates can gain skills and confidence from hands-on practice with them. In addition, these teaching tools are low-cost and convenient, and reduce the need for cadavers to be used in teaching veterinary medicine."

Jamie-Leigh Thompson, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies



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