OBJECTIVE To define learning curves for fourth-year veterinary students performing ovariohysterectomy procedures in dogs and cats and castration in dogs.
DESIGN Retrospective study.
SAMPLE 3,196 ovariohysterectomies or castrations performed in dogs and cats by 88 veterinary students during a spay-neuter surgery and animal shelter rotation (n = 3,056) or by 1 experienced general practitioner (n = 140).
PROCEDURES Data collected from medical records included patient signalment, type and duration of procedure, and sequence (by date and time) of the procedure within a list of procedures of the same type generated for each student. For each procedure type, geometric mean surgery time and 95% confidence intervals were determined for each number of surgeries completed by ≥ 10 students. Median surgery times for the same procedure types were determined for the experienced practitioner. The learning curve for each procedure was modeled with nonlinear (3-factor exponential equation with a nonzero asymptote) and linear regression. For each procedure, the asymptote (optimal surgery time) for students was compared with the experienced practitioner's median surgery time.
RESULTS 2,945 surgeries (mean, 33/student) performed by ≥ 10 students were analyzed. Surgery time decreased in a nonlinear manner as student experience increased for castration of adult or pediatric dogs and ovariohysterectomy of pediatric dogs and adult or pediatric cats. Surgery time decreased in a linear manner as experience increased for ovariohysterectomy of adult dogs.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE To the authors' knowledge, this was the first study to map surgery times for common surgical procedures consecutively performed by veterinary students. Results clearly indicated the value of repetition to improve surgical skills (as measured by surgery time) during a 3-week period.
As efforts to reduce the overpopulation and euthanasia of unwanted and unowned dogs and cats have increased, greater attention has been focused on spay-neuter programs throughout the United States. Because of the wide range of geographic and demographic needs, a wide variety of programs have been developed to increase delivery of spay-neuter services to targeted populations of animals, including stationary and mobile clinics, MASH-style operations, shelter services, feral cat programs, and services provided through private practitioners. In an effort to ensure a consistent level of care, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians convened a task force of veterinarians to develop veterinary medical care guidelines for spay-neuter programs. The guidelines consist of recommendations for preoperative care (eg, patient transport and housing, patient selection, client communication, record keeping, and medical considerations), anesthetic management (eg, equipment, monitoring, perioperative considerations, anesthetic protocols, and emergency preparedness), surgical care (eg, operating-area environment; surgical-pack preparation; patient preparation; surgeon preparation; surgical procedures for pediatric, juvenile, and adult patients; and identification of neutered animals), and postoperative care (eg, analgesia, recovery, and release). These guidelines are based on current principles of anesthesiology, critical care medicine, microbiology, and surgical practice, as determined from published evidence and expert opinion. They represent acceptable practices that are attainable in spay-neuter programs.