The University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation (Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover – TiHo) has opened a new Clinical Skills Laboratory and has bought both the Haptic Cow and Haptic Horse systems.
Marc Dilly, director of the lab, explained: “Nowhere else in Germany has a facility like this and, although we have analysed similar facilities elsewhere in the world, we are still exploring the possibilities of integrating such guided learning systems from the second year of our students’ six year courses. We visited and spoke to UK Universities and saw how useful it was for trainers to actually see what the student is doing and monitor their movements, making it, in many ways, superior to interaction with live animals.”
Both Haptic Cow and Haptic Horse draw on virtual touch, or haptics. Haptic Cow enables students to carry out virtual rectal examinations on cows, whilst the Haptic Horse replicates a virtual equine abdomen.
Both systems have an integrated haptics device known as PHANTOM from the SensAble Group in Geomagic. This instrument makes it possible for users to touch and palpate virtual objects in a highly realistic way.
Students interact with the haptics systems within the seemingly empty fibreglass model of the rear half of a cow or horse, with their movements being monitored by their instructor.
Founded in 1778 as the ”Königliche Roßarzney-Schule” in Hannover, it is the only veterinary educational establishment in Germany to have preserved its independent status.
Approximately 2,500 students of veterinary medicine, including doctoral candidates and PhD students, are currently enrolled, with 256 undergraduate students in each year of the six year course. The new Clinical Skills Lab was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
“The underlying principles of the Haptic Cow and Horse accord with our ethical philosophy perfectly”, explained Dilly. “By exposing our students to the virtual trainer in advance of interventions on live animals, we may reduce stress and optimise welfare. Naturally, we also expect to improve teaching too, most especially by exposing students to conditions they are unlikely to meet for real during their course. All the different sorts of equine colic are prime examples. Colic is often an emergency condition, so arranging training during such a situation is often not possible.”
The Haptic Cow and Horse both replicate a range of conditions at the touch of a button. The Haptic Cow simulates the bovine reproductive tract, including models of the cervix, uterus and ovaries with a wide range of fertility cases, pregnancies and some examples of pathology, whilst the Haptic Horse mimics many forms of colic.
In early 2014, Hannover’s Clinical Skills Lab will host a Conference of Veterinary Training.