The first day at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital prepares fourth-year veterinary students for clinical rotations by throwing them into simulated scenarios with stuffed patients and seasoned actors as clients.

Dealing with a horse in dire need of emergency surgery and helping an animal owner in distress are two of the scenarios they get to act out.

“It’s a sharp reminder of what it’s going to be like here, coming up with differentials, a treatment plan, getting an accurate and complete history, and then presenting it to a clinician we haven’t worked with yet,” said Danielle Petrini.

Students also get hands-on experience working with veterinary equipment like fluid and syringe pumps and learned computer software programs for different treatment areas of the hospital. At the end of the week, students began their clinical rotations.

Dr. Julie Cary, director of Simulation-Based Education at the College of Veterinary Medicine, said the point of the exercise, which took place May 3-6, is to get the students situated in their new environment so they can focus on their clients and patients, as opposed to the ins and outs of the hospital.

Cary said she hopes the event, which has taken place three of the past four years, will become a staple in WSU’s veterinary curriculum.

“The event is designed to hit on the most important things students need to know to reduce errors and protect our patients,” Cary said. “It’s meant to give our students confidence. When you don’t know where to turn for blood work you already don’t know what you’re doing. We want to give them an opportunity to work through the process.”

That opportunity means a lot to students like Taylor Robbins, who has never worked in a small animal clinic.

“There’s a lot of day-to-day materials that I don’t know how to handle,” Robbins said.

Robbins first clinical rotation will be at the Avian Health and Food Safety Laboratory in Puyallup, Washington, a branch of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

“I have an interest in poultry, so I am going to go play with some birds,” Robbins said. “I know, I have an unusual taste.”

Sam Kalis said he was happy to confirm he still knows how a fluid pump works.

Excluding the orientation and an elective he recently took, Kalis said he’s been in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital just twice before.

“With COVID we haven’t been able to get over there as much as we would have liked,” he said.

Like the rest of the Class of 2022, Kalis has been waiting years for this moment and is excited to see his classmates after the COVID pandemic shut down much of the university.

“You see the top third of everybody’s face but it’s good to see them and talk again,” Kalis said.  “I’m sure the people feel similarly, but you get the feeling that this is real; it’s going to happen.”