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Ten-minute chat


Aimee Paterson-Young from White Cross Vets understands that learning to place an intravenous catheter on a live animal can be stressful for student veterinary nurses, so she makes fake legs for them to practise on.

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Where did you get the idea?

The idea came from speaking to a nursing colleague who was daunted at the idea of placing a catheter in a live animal during her training.

As students at vet school we practised a number of procedures on models, and it seemed a logical step to extrapolate this scenario. We all want to be as confident as possible before practising any technique on one of our patients.

How do you make the legs?

The leg is simple to make, as the photographs show. The essentials are a toilet roll inner, some drip line (ideally still attached to a bag) and an Allevyn (Smith & Nephew) dressing, which closely mimics the feel of finding a vein through the skin.

How lifelike is it?

It will never be quite the same as the real thing, for one thing the drip line is a little tougher than a vein! However, feeling for the vein is fairly similar, and as long as the drip line is attached to a bag at height you can draw ‘blood’ or get the flash of ‘blood’ in the hub of a catheter that mimics placing one in real life.

Did you come up with the design yourself?

The design came from a similar (but more advanced) model that was used at Bristol university where we felt for a vein through a layer of foam.

Are there similar procedures that can be taught in this way?

We use models to practise bandaging, or positioning for radiography. Allevyn is also useful for practising suture techniques. I believe there are some advanced CPR models on the market as well, although these can be expensive.

Why is it important for student VNs to gain confidence this way?

They face a steep learning curve in practice and frequently get thrust out of their comfort zone. It doesn’t help if our patients are stressed and it is easy for these students to get disheartened.

1. Fill cardboard with wadding

2. Secure ends with tape for stability

3. Attach drip line along the ‘leg’

4. Secure dressing over drip line

5. Fill with coloured fluid and it’s ready for use

Aimee guides student VN Laura Rowland through the procedure

Feeling prepared for a procedure or technique can both reduce the stress experienced by our patients and boost a student’s confidence, meaning their likelihood of success is higher.

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