Virgina-Maryland Opens Around-the-Clock Skills Lab

A new lab is designed for all veterinary students who want to practice bandaging, intubation and other clinical skills.

It’s 3 a.m. and you can’t sleep. What can you do?

Students enrolled in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine can practice bandaging, catheterization, intubation and suturing inside a new lab that is open 24/7.

The clinical skills lab is stocked with animal models and mannequins, allowing veterinary students such as Anna Katogiritis to become more proficient at what they likely will be doing after graduation.

“The models have veinlike tubes in their legs that really allow you to perform techniques as if you were practicing on a real animal,” said Katogiritis, a second-year student from Karpathos, Greece. “At the same time, knowing that I was not putting a live animal at risk or distress eliminates the stress factor and allowed me to focus on the techniques themselves.”

Veterinarians and veterinary technicians manage the Blacksburg, Va., lab but are not scheduled around the clock. During off hours, students can walk in and practice on their own.

“When the lab is staffed, students can receive instruction and immediate feedback on their skills,” said Meghan Byrnes, DVM, an instructor in the department of small animal clinical sciences. “In addition, the lab is always open for use, even when it is not staffed, so students have the option to use it at their convenience.

“Each station has written directions and task sheets that explain the steps to each procedure.”

The lab is designed primarily to teach clinical skills to first-, second- and third-year veterinary students. Fourth-year students have access as well, and faculty members and student clubs may reserve space for classes and workshops.

“Through repetition and immediate feedback from instructors, students can successfully integrate knowledge and skills learned in veterinary school,” Dr. Byrnes said.

Third-year student Jason Regalado uses the lab to supplement classroom instruction.

“It being open 24/7 is a boon as a late-night study break from book and computer learning,” he said.

One station contains models of dogs’ heads that Regalado uses to perform intubation and check for leaks in the anesthesia system. The Sacramento, Calif., resident also practices electrocardiogram lead placement, gowning and gloving, instrument handling and even toxic plant identification.

A suturing table allows Regalado to practice stitching on foam and on materials that mimic the texture and thickness of animal skin.

Katogiritis saw a similar lab at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

“Labs like these are extremely helpful and useful for students,” Katogiritis said. “I know that not all the students that enter veterinary schools have an extended animal experience.

“Allowing all students to practice, without putting actual patients in danger, is invaluable in my opinion.”

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