Expired medical supplies get second life

A WSU veterinary student watches their lab partner practice a medical procedure on a mannequin version of an animal.
Michaele Lemons (right) watches her lab partner practice a medical procedure in the Clinical Simulation Center. Photo by Daniel Haley.

A donation of medical supplies from Cougar Health Services (CHS) is helping Washington State University veterinary students get ready for their first live-animal surgery. 

The students are using the donated gloves, gowns, bandages, sutures, and other supplies to practice on mannequin versions of animals in the Clinical Simulation Center, where they spend hours training each year.

“I personally feel so much more prepared for my upcoming clinical year because I can confidently perform procedures that I wouldn’t have learned if not for the wonderful donations,” said Michaele Lemons, a third-year WSU veterinary medicine student.

Finding the right partner

The donations stemmed from the COVID‑19 pandemic, when CHS and medical facilities across the nation purchased higher quantities of medical supplies to help protect themselves from supply chain shortages. Many of these supplies have expired and are no longer useable in human medicine, but they are still perfectly functional.

Sheppard and Petersen stand and kneel next to a large stack of boxes on a loading dock.
Walter Sheppard and Justin Petersen from Cougar Health Services prepare a shipment of face shields donated to the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“I didn’t want to see these supplies go to waste, and I knew there had to be an organization that can use them,” said Justin Petersen, CHS quality assurance and compliance coordinator.

Finding that organization was a bit challenging, but after hitting a few dead ends, Petersen and Joel Schwartzkopf, WSU assistant vice chancellor for student health and well-being and executive director of CHS, reached out to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The hospital is unable to use expired supplies to treat live animals, but they can be used in the Clinical Simulation Center.

“We don’t have a lot of money to buy supplies, and donations from places like Cougar Health Services make a huge difference in our labs,” said Lethea Russell, Clinical Simulation Center coordinator. “They give us an opportunity to provide the students a wider range of experiences before they hit the real world.”

Contributing to a top-ranked education

What started out as a dilemma created by the pandemic has turned into an ongoing partnership that will benefit both CHS and the Clinical Simulation Center for years to come.

Russell said many third‑year students are getting ready to work in veterinary clinics, and most of them have never fully set up an IV bag for a patient — a common procedure performed in clinics. Because of the donations from CHS and other places, this year she can provide all the supplies the students need to learn this procedure.

Being able to practice procedures in the simulation center, Lemons said, is what sets WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine apart from many other veterinary schools.

Being able to practice procedures in the simulation center, Lemons said, is what makes WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine nationally competitive as evidenced by its recent ranking of 15th best in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

“In a lot of vet schools, very little technical application is actually practiced,” Lemons said. “The donations provided by Cougar Health Services are integral to us gaining hands‑on experience with suturing, bandaging, placing IV catheters, drawing blood, surgical procedures, and much more.”

Schwartzkopf is pleased CHS can support the more than 500 veterinary students that use the simulation center each year while helping reduce medical waste at the same time.

“Maybe one of these students will be the next one to develop a new vaccine or treatment that benefits us all because of what they learned at WSU,” Schwartzkopf said. “This partnership demonstrates another way Cougs can take care of Cougs and be good stewards of the resources our students have entrusted us with.”

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