Development of Alternatives for Teaching Practical Skills in Veterinary Education

Traditional methods of teaching basic psychomotor and clinical skills in veterinary medical and technical education have usually involved live animal use. The trend in training today's human healthcare workers, however, is to use inanimate models or simulators, and there are practical, financial, and ethical reasons for veterinary educators to follow suit.

The benefit of using inanimate models and simulators is that the hand and motor coordination of the practitioner are highly refined before he or she ever touches a live patient. In human healthcare training, models are already available to teach examinations, access veins, give injections and do surgery. In veterinary education, we also look for skills that can be trained on simple non-technical models initially, ramping up to use of humanely procured cadavers. The use of models and cadavers not only allows trainees to fine tune their skills prior to ever touching a live patient, which enhances the welfare of the veterinary patient, but also reduces or eliminates harm to animals used for teaching.

Some of the essential factors to consider are the mindset of the educator and institutional policies that govern animal use in teaching. Thus we must not only demonstrate that techniques are taught effectively and at reasonable cost, but also that in a profession where an appreciation for animal welfare should be foremost, the impact on animals is a positive one.