At 8:50 am, we arrived at the Hannover Veterinary School to take a tour through the clinical skills lab. Our guide gave us a brief introduction of the clinical education received at the university. Unlike some universities in the States, where education mainly consists of traditional teaching methods (professors giving lectures, etc.), the Hannover University has several different learning levels and only the professional learning level has this traditional approach. They have many teaching models and simulators available in the different rooms of the skills lab which allow students to become more comfortable with a task before performing these skills with a live animal. The first room we entered was the Injection Room, where students had models available to practice blood sampling, IV injection, and catheterization. Several other rooms were also available to practice various clinical skills including: Suturing room, Reanimation room, Palpation room, Animal Handling Room, Bandaging & Casting room, Radiogragh/ Ultrasound Practice room, Surgical Scrub-in room, Surgical Instruments room, and a room with a smart board that allowed viewing of the many available clinical skills videos. Some of the videos are even available in English in cooperation with the University of Bristol.
University of Bristol student, Sara Bainey, assisted in bringing another helpful learning tool into the school called the “Haptic Cow Trainer.” This is a bovine rectal palpation simulator developed by Virtalis that draws on haptics technology or “virtual touch” and allows the student to be able to practice palpating what different variations in the bovine reproductive tract may feel like. It also allows you to visualize what you are palpating on a computer screen and allows instructors to give students different senarios and see if they can determine what they are feeling. Many of the students on the trip got to try out the Haptic Cow Trainer and other models as well such as practicing spinal taps and listening to a Ventricular Septal Defect in a dog. Other large animal models were available including a dystocia simulator and jugular vein model in the bovine room. There were also rectal palpation models for the cow and horse. With all of these models and simulators it was necessary to have a repair room and someone who could fix many of the problems that would arise over time. After a tour of the skills lab, we also toured the Small Animal Hospital in Hannover where we were able to view the exam rooms and various departments. We then took a break for lunch at the cafeteria at TiHo where I had a delicious salad before heading off to the teaching farm in the afternoon.
The teaching farm was something I was particularly interested in seeing, as a future poultry veterinarian, to be able to see some differences from what I had experienced in the States. Unlike in the veterinary school I attend, students at the Hannover University are required to do 14 days of farm practice after their second semester. The students stay in housing at the farm and also take part in practical research. Animal welfare is a central topic in research and discussion in Germany and also in the European Union as a whole. The are around 30,000 animals on the teaching farm including 200 head of cattle, 80 mother sows, 80 mini pigs, 500 layers, 18,200 broilers, 2700 turkeys and 2300 ducks. Our guide also discussed the milk quality control system where if the cow is not in the standard of quality, whether due to hygienic problems, decreased life-span, hoof problems, etc., the milk is not accepted. On this farm, we saw their mechanical milking system and cattle facilities, swine facilities, turkey,and chicken enclosures. Many new laws to improve animals welfare will go into effect in the near future. By 2017, dehorning of bulls will cease (genetics will be used to breed bulls without horns). By 2016, chickens will no longer be de-beaked (by 2017 for turkeys). Also, studies are being performed at the farm to look at the possibility of switching back to a type of bird that can be used for both meat and egg production verses the high production varieties that are common now. They have 14 day old chickens of both types in one of the research houses and will be comparing them throughout the study. They also have outdoor accessible pens for the turkeys to improve animal welfare over the enclosed houses; however, then disease transmission becomes more of a concern. The balance between animal welfare, production demands, and environmental concerns will always be important topics and it will be interesting to see how these develop in the future.