Science-- there's something for everyone

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Practicing on toys

Surgical skills laboratory with toy animalsIt’s not only small children who get practice dealing with pets and other people through the handling of toys.  According to a study led by Rikke Langebæk of the University of Copenhagen, veterinary students can also benefit from doctoring toy animals before they start operating on the real thing. 

Veterinary students will one day be called upon to perform surgical procedures on people’s beloved pets and valuable lifestock.  In preparation, they often practice on laboratory animals.  However, this has several drawbacks.  For one thing, the future vets understandably feel distress at causing these animals any unnecessary suffering.  For another, the pressure of having to operate on living animals can make students anxious, never the best learning environment.  And of course, there’s the cost of maintaining and caring for laboratory animals.

In order to alleviate these problems, Langebæk developed a skills laboratory in 2007 that uses toy animals instead of living animals.  These are not your ordinary stuffed toys from Hallmark though.  The toys contain organs and veins that simulate those found in real animals. 

Thus far, students say the toys are a good model for learning surgical procedures, and that operating on the toys gives them confidence for moving on to the real thing.