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Veterinary Students Use Stage III to Learn How to Operate on Animals

Patricia Wuest Editorial Director, NAVC

Veterinary Students Use Stage III to Learn How to Operate on Animals
Developed by a veterinarian at Washington State University's School of Veterinary Medicine, Stage III is a hybrid immersive simulation environment comprised of a computer simulation paired with a mannequin and several props such as an anesthetic machine and vital signs monitor. "Anastasia" is the mannequin WSU is currently using.

Veterinary schools are using a wide range of simulators to aid students training for practical and clinical skills. These simulators range from relatively simple physical models to highly sophisticated computer-enhanced training environments.

Now, Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has a tool that will aid veterinary students in learning how to operate on animals. The tool is the first of its kind.

How It Works

“Stage III is a hybrid immersive simulation environment comprised of a computer simulation paired with a mannequin and several props such as an anesthetic machine and vital signs monitor,” says Robert Keegan, associate professor at WSU’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences. The name “Stage III” is taken from Guedel’s classical description of the stages and planes of general anesthesia; Stage III is the stage of surgical anesthesia.

Students practicing with Stage III

Stage III gives veterinary students the opportunity to practice high-risk surgical procedures with less pressure and to gain the confidence needed to operate on a live animal.

The idea for Stage III came from observations of nursing simulations using expensive human mannequins, explains Keegan. “It was immediately obvious how beneficial immersive simulation was in clinical teaching but the expense of commercially available human simulators was beyond the means of veterinary education,” he notes. “I had previously developed two screen-based mechanical ventilator simulations to teach ventilation to veterinary students. I built on elements of those to create an anesthesia simulation.”

Until about 15 years ago, veterinary schools used only use live animals for students to practice on. All students will still have to operate on a live animal, says Keegan, but Stage III gives them the opportunity to practice with less pressure.

“Stage III benefits veterinary students by preparing them for common anesthetic conditions they will face with live animals,” says Keegan. “Students who have completed our applied clinical simulation course have experienced and treated the most commonly encountered anesthetic challenges before they ever participate in a live-animal anesthesia experience. Such experience is invaluable.”

The Benefits of Stage III

Keegan said Stage III will give students the opportunity to become more comfortable with performing surgery on animals without feeling overwhelmed with having a live animal on the operating table.

The old technology requires a specific mannequin and is expensive, Keegan said. Human simulations can range from $250,000 to $500,000. Stage III is adaptable to any mannequin, even an ordinary stuffed animal toy. “[WSU’s mannequin] Anastasia is equipped with sensors and speakers permitting a blink response and audible heart sounds,” says Keegan. “But the flexibility of Stage III means that it will work with any mannequin, even one you make yourself.”

Stage III will cost users several thousands of dollars in a yearly subscription fee, Keegan says. As of now it is just a software program, but Keegan says that in the future he hopes to distribute a mannequin specifically made for the program.

Keegan said this could help veterinarians and doctors in developing countries who are currently unable to afford the technology for the human simulators on the market.

The clinical scenarios used with Stage III

The clinical scenarios used with Stage III have been developed using an evidence-based structure, which helps students learn in the most efficient way possible, says Keegan.

“For those medical training programs in developing countries having limited budgets and resources, Stage III provides a mechanism to provide high-quality immersive simulation at a fraction of the cost of high-fidelity human solutions,” says Keegan.

The simulation is also portable, says Keegan, who taught an advanced anesthesia monitoring laboratory at the 2018 International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium. “Stage III was the focus of a laboratory that had in previous years been taught using live laboratory animals,” he says. “The portable nature of the simulation enabled us to present high-quality anesthesia training, without the use of live animals, in a conference hotel meeting room.”

Learn More

Read Virtual Reality Brings Dog’s Anatomy to Life for Veterinary Students.

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