In vet school, and presumably elsewhere, ‘wet labs’ are the secret to gaining hands-on experience. The term does not refer to friendly and happy, if a bit daft dogs that have just gone for a swim, but instead to pretty much any hands-on, real-life activity we get an opportunity to do. Usually they are arranged by clubs: the equine club hosts a farrier wet-lab where you can practice doing whatever it is they do to horses’ hooves to keep them happy, the holistic club sets up a way for us to actually learn and get a taste of acupuncture, etc.
Yesterday I got to choose between the equine club’s offer to let us actually castrate a horse, and the emergency club’s offer to practice emergency procedures on canine cadavers. The horses kind of have all the glory: live horses, actual surgery! But seriously, as much as I’d love to throw a leg over and go for a nice long trail ride, I’m not so comfortable with taking a scalpel to the business end of unsuspecting horse and removing his testicles. And on any given day 5 years in my future I’m almost infinitely more likely to be performing a chest tap on a dog than castrating a horse. So I opted for the emergency club, and spent the morning back in the anatomy lab (a room I had managed to entirely avoid all year long), learning how to place a chest tube (this would be done if, for example, you had a massive infection and pus was accumulating around your lungs, or had been smacked by a truck and had blood or air in your thoracic cavity), perform a tracheostomy (if you had an upper airway obstruction, or if you had the misfortune to be born bull dog, pug or any other brachycephalic breed), and do a jugular cut-down (if you are 99% dead and we are unable to get a catheter in you the traditional way and really need venous access). It was a great lab – all of these procedures I’ve seen done many times at the hospital, and so it was good to receive instruction on how they should be done. Of course, doing these things to a dead dog is particularly misleading – these are emergency procedures and I’ve never seen then done in real life on anything but a panting, heaving animal…but it was great practice. Best of all, I got a ton of suturing practice, which was most needed since I’ve been a bit of a slacker in my surgery class lately.
So it wasn’t sleeping late and sipping coffee over a good novel, but it wasn’t a bad way to spend a Saturday morning. Our Halloween party was last night – I’ll post some pictures when I get them (didn’t actually take any of my own so I’m at my friend’s mercy!)