Veterinary medical education has undergone significant changes in recent years, incorporating more innovative approaches to teaching, training, and learning into the veterinary curriculum. The shift to outcomes-based veterinary education has initiated the use of simulators and the development of simulation laboratories for teaching clinical skills and clinical competencies in preparing students as day-one competent veterinarians.
Simulation technology in medical education uses models or simulators to create or mimic real-life scenarios, which allows students to learn and build confidence by practicing technical skills without the need for live animals. In these learning environments, teaching and training utilize low-fidelity and high-fidelity simulations. Fidelity is the degree of realism or authenticity of the simulators. Low-fidelity simulations are typically used for students to achieve individual tasks or competencies on anatomical models such as venipuncture or endotracheal intubation. As a result, students can grasp basic concepts and allow time to repeat the technical skill as often as needed to achieve competency. High-fidelity simulations mimic a realistic way to reproduce an actual patient scenario, including a simulated environment.
Low-fidelity simulators are low-cost and were purchased for students at Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine (TUCVM) to utilize throughout the curriculum in the clinical skills laboratories for practicing hands-on technical competencies before entry into the clinical phase of the curriculum. The learning environment allows students to practice with less anxiety, build confidence and not worry about causing injury and discomfort to a live animal. In addition, simulation environments are safe, and students are more motivated to apply theoretical knowledge during the hands-on application activities.
Eleven SynDaver canine simulators were purchased for the surgical training program at TUCVM, including one for the anatomy simulation laboratory. The canine simulator for anatomy attempts to decrease the number of formaldehyde cadavers. The SynDaver surgical canine is a high-fidelity simulator with an anatomically accurate and realistic platform for students to practice surgical procedures. Although synthetic, the canine simulators have the feel and texture of living tissue and contain individual muscles, bones, and organs. The synthetic dog has a complete list of functioning body systems, including a heart with a heartbeat and a circulatory system, and will bleed with surgical incisions. Students in their surgical training program have opportunities to repeat surgical procedures as often as needed to achieve confidence and competency as assessed by the clinician without the risks associated with a live animal. With functioning body systems, clinicians can simulate diseases and medical complications, thus assessing the students’ foundational medical knowledge and ability to make clinical applications to medical treatment and outcomes. The surgical simulations also provide a safe environment where students can explore, practice, and learn from their mistakes. These simulators are ideal, as they emulate real case scenarios.
Simulation-based medical education enhances the learning environment and add educational value in teaching and training veterinary students’ technical skills and clinical competencies. In addition, simulations can assist with filling the gap with limited faculty and staff in training programs.