Many vet schools are increasingly relying on animal simulators to train students. While this reduces the number of animals required for practice, questions have been asked as to whether animal simulators appropriately prepare students for real-life situations. Researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna have tested is exactly this question. The team found that simulators provide a stress-free environment for training that works to allow students to efficiently achieve their learning outcomes.
Researchers Christina Nagel, Christine Aurich and a team from Vetmeduni Vienna’s Centre for Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer worked with a sample of 25 third-year vet students. The team worked to test how efficient training with animal simulators could be in teaching large animal gynaecology.
The sample, separated into three groups, were instructed on palpation and ultrasonography of the equine genital tract of horse mares. The first group used a simulator box with rubber genital organs and were each trained four times. Group two were also trained four times but on teaching horses. The final group received only a single training session on horse mares.
The study found that simulator training was almost as efficient as using teaching animals. After a two-week gap, the sample students used their knowledge to examine and diagnose a horse mare.
The group who had the chance to train on horses four times received the best scores, but those who had trained on the simulator weren’t far behind, with those who had a single session coming in last.
“Simulator-based training prepares the students very efficiently for diagnostic procedures on live horses,” Nagel said. “Simulators are, however, not only an additional teaching tool for our students but also a contribution to animal welfare. Only when students have successfully finished the simulator-based training course are they allowed to perform the same diagnostic procedures in animals.”