Equine Veterinary Students Welcome New Learning Tool

Equine Veterinary Students Welcome New Learning Tool

The "Anato-Rug" has three layers showing horses' (1) muscles, (2) skeleton, and (3) heart, lungs, and abdominal organs. The rug's purpose is to help students have an easier time memorizing equine anatomy.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Teachers at the Royal Veterinary College in London, England, recently developed a new study aid to help early-stage equine veterinary students better learn and memorize horse anatomy. The new study aid also provided fun and entertainment for the students. .

"Veterinary students are taught anatomy early in their education, but by the time the students reach the latter (clinical) years of their education, it is clear that their anatomy knowledge is often inadequate," explained Renate Weller, DVM, PhD, MSc, Vet Ed, MRCVS, a senior lecturer in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.

Although the exact way that veterinary students learn anatomy varies from school to school, common techniques involve gross anatomy with cadavers, text books, and lectures. Considering the health, ethical, and monetary issues associated with cadaveric dissections, the use of cadavers has decreased, leaving a void in 3-D learning.

"The 'best' way to teach and learn anatomy is not obvious, and a thorough knowledge of surface anatomy is extremely important to any clinician when performing a physical examination," said Weller.

In attempt to fill that void, Weller and colleagues developed a "horse rug" (dubbed the "Anato-Rug") to help vet students learn equine thoracic and abdominal topographic anatomy. The rug has three "layers" showing (1) the muscles, (2) the skeleton, and (3) the heart, lungs, and abdominal organs.

Construction of the Anato-Rug took 80 hours, three commercial horse blankets, and £200 (roughly $310). Thirty-eight veterinary students then volunteered to review their equine anatomy using either the Anato-Rug or standard anatomy textbooks, and underwent a short 10-minute test prior to reviewing the anatomy. Students were retested one week later; in both tests, students were asked such questions as "point to the deltoid muscle and state origin and insertion" and "point to where the base of the cecum is." After the second exam, the students completed a questionnaire regarding their enjoyment and confidence with anatomy.

Students in the Anato-Rug group answered 52.5% of the questions correctly higher compared to the 42.7% of questions that were correctly answered by students that only studied text books. Similar results were noted after the second test.

Weller added, "Although the test scores were not different between the two groups, the students using the Anato-Rug enjoyed it much more. The veterinary course is very demanding and anything we can do for our students to enjoy learning is a big bonus. It has been shown again and again that motivation is key in learning in any discipline."

She added, "This is the first physical model showing topographic anatomy of the equine thorax and abdomen that can help bridge the gap between the anatomy students learn in the preclinical years to that required in the clinical part of a veterinary student's education."

The study, "Design and validation of a novel learning tool, the 'Anato-Rug' for teaching equine topographical anatomy," was published in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education. The abstract is available online

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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