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Reference Desk November 2011

Danish Research Finds Surgery on Toy Animals Lessens Anxiety of Veterinary Students

    COPENHAGEN, Denmark, November 15, 2011—Training basic surgical techniques on toy animals before having to perform operations on living animals makes veterinary students much less anxious and also minimizes the use of laboratory animals, according to a new PhD thesis from the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.

    Teddy Laboratory
    "In comparison with performing surgical procedures on dead animals or laboratory animals, we can see that the students feel more confident learning the basic surgical techniques using toy animals. Anxiety hampers learning, so it is hardly surprising that the greater sense of confidence among students has resulted in them having a much easier time learning and remembering the surgical techniques," says Rikke Langebæk, PhD and senior veterinary surgeon, who has developed the skills laboratory. She adds, "Also, we want to do everything in our power to reduce the use of laboratory animals for teaching purposes."

    Dr. Langebæk notes that the surgical skills laboratory, which opened in 2007 and is also known as the "teddy laboratory," strengthens learning and the teaching environment, allowing students to train basic surgical skills on toy animals designed to resemble and feel like real animals featuring, for example, organs, veins, and arteries. Measurements of students' heart rate, questionnaires, and interviews show that after attending the '"teddy laboratory," students are considerably less fearful and better prepared for performing surgery on living animals, she reports.

    Rikke Langebæk's interviews of students have identified four aspects of the models which are important: The visual, the dimensional, the tactile, and the situational aspect. On a four-point so-called Likert scale (poor/reasonable/good/really good), 75% of students rated the toy animal models as being "good" or "really good" for learning surgical procedures.

    Source: University of Copenhagen

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