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Does virtual reality training improve veterinary students’ first canine surgical performance?
  1. Julie A Hunt1,
  2. Matthew Heydenburg2,
  3. Stacy L Anderson1 and
  4. R Randall Thompson1
  1. 1College of Veterinary Medicine, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, Tennessee, USA
  2. 2Noah’s Westside Animal Hospital, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Julie A Hunt, College of Veterinary Medicine, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN 37752, USA; julie.hunt{at}


Background Virtual reality (VR) applications are effective tools in many educational disciplines. A minimally interactive VR application allowing stereoscopic viewing of surgical videos has been developed to aid veterinary students learning to perform surgery. We sought to describe how students used the VR application while preparing to perform their first canine sterilisation surgery and compare surgical performance of students who prepared using traditional methods with students who also used VR.

Methods Third-year veterinary students (n=44) were randomised into control and VR groups in a parallel superiority randomised controlled trial. All were given lectures, videos and skills practice on models. VR group students were also given a VR application and headset to view stereoscopic surgical videos. Blinded raters scored a subset of students (n=19) as they performed their first canine ovariohysterectomy.

Results and conclusions Groups spent similar time preparing to perform surgery, potentially because of the rigour of students’ non-surgical course load. When VR training was added to an already comprehensive surgical skills curriculum, students watched VR videos for a median of 90 min. Groups did not differ in surgical performance scores or time. A larger study of the VR application with prescribed use guidelines would be a helpful subsequent study.

  • dogs
  • preclinical education
  • preventive medicine
  • soft tissue surgery
  • surgery
  • veterinary profession
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  • Funding This study was funded by Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine. Exero Vet provided the seat licenses for students participating in this study free of charge.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval This study was reviewed and deemed exempt by the Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) Institutional Review Board. Participating dogs were owned by a local animal shelter that provided written consent for their participation.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request. Deidentified participant data can be obtained by emailing the primary author, as approved by IRB.

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