The newest team member in a program at Northeast Community College has a way of taking down orders.
The college’s veterinary technology program now has an advanced canine medical trainer (K9 Diesel)—a full-body simulator designed for canine first responders, military working dog handlers, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians.
Designed in partnership with the US Department of Defense, K9 Diesel is a state-of-the-art skills trainer that simulates active breathing, audio cues (four different sounds an injured dog makes) and more than 28 features and scenarios. various medical Each training site is designed to replicate the look, feel and function of actual medical procedures.
“We were looking at ways to have some kind of simulation for emergencies because we have some students who work in emergency practice, plus everyone in practice sees emergencies. And so how to make it as vivid as possible,” said Dr. Michael Cooper, veterinary technology program director/instructor.
K9 Diesel replicates the appearance of a Belgian Malinois service dog that can bark, breathe and bleed. It includes interchangeable limbs and injuries to help provide greater flexibility to change wound patterns for students. It also allows learners to perform a wide range of critical life-saving tasks with an incredibly realistic experience.
Cooper said, “We knew this had to be pretty good because that’s what the Department of Defense uses. It does a lot of different things and opens up a lot of avenues. So not only can we use it in a few different labs, from emergency anesthesia to nursing, you can also do CE (continuing education) for our vet technicians.”
“We can also do first aid classes for dog owners,” added Dr. Kassie Wessendorf, veterinary technology instructor. “It’s also good to work with police personnel who have working dogs, search dogs and even hunting dogs.”
What makes the K9 Diesel most unique is its ability to easily pre-program a training scenario that can be named and saved for future use. This allows instructors to focus on the student’s techniques. The K9 simulator runs on its own during the exercise, capturing the results for review in a summary.
Johnny Estep, a retired military medic who is now a trainer-manager for TacMed, the company that sells the simulator, said this is as close as having a real dog in the lab.
“It’s the movement, the sounds and the different wounds that we see a lot, especially in working with the DOD with military working dogs and police dogs.”
Named in memory of the heroic dog who died in the line of duty following the 2015 Paris terror attacks, K9 Diesel is operated via a remote control device that monitors breathing and other vital signs. Via remote control, the instructor can stay away to see how well the patient is being cared for.
“When we were all learning, you would practice on a stuffed animal. He was never breathing or anything,” Estep said. “The realism with this is that you see the actual effects of the care that the students are giving; what are they doing to save the dog’s life.”
Customers have the ability to select the types of injuries that come with the simulator. There are various legs that include amputation, complex fractures, burns, accessory wounds and gunshot wounds, among others.
“We’ve been working with Jamie Hyneman from (the Discovery Channel program) ‘MythBusters,'” Estep said. “He helped design the district system in K9. People who have worked in special effects in Hollywood build the K9 for TacMed. Since Hollywood has gone digital, it didn’t need all those people building special effects, but we need them. This is what gives our products the realism of the movie effect that you can see on this dog.”
Josh Schlote, veterinary technology instructor, said the new tool will be helpful for students as they continue to develop their critical thinking skills. He said this would come to light in situations where a student would see a visible wound.
“But what happens when they can’t see inside like the chest cavity or something that might not be very visible,” Schlote said. “This will help ensure that we don’t get what we refer to as ‘tunnel vision’ when students say, ‘Oh, here’s my injury, I need to take care of that.'” This particular teaching tool can help them realize that they may have something like a tension pneumothorax going on by leading them to assess the whole patient.
It will also be helpful in helping new students understand what it’s like to be involved in a real emergency.
“Now we can simulate that scenario and if you have that student freezing, you can stop, let them collect themselves, and then they can come back and we can resolve the situation,” she said. “If you have a real emergency, you can’t go back. It makes it a lot more realistic for them, so they’ll be more prepared when they go to practice.”
In addition to continuing education opportunities for the community, Cooper predicts K9 Diesel will be popular when Northeast hosts several career days for middle and high school students.
“The way this thing is designed is phenomenal,” Cooper said. “Pre-engineering students can come in and just see how it’s built. Information technology can see how (it) works as it does with so many electronic devices in it. Robotics would be another program that would be of interest.”
The new state-of-the-art veterinary technology program building on the Akli College farm, one mile east of the main campus in Norfolk, has allowed for the addition of new teaching tools that will allow students to become successful veterinary technicians. Cooper said technology, like the K9 Diesel, shows the program is not insurmountable.
“This is the best simulation out there. And besides the real thing, that’s as good as it gets,” he said. “If you can do that and handle it, it makes it easier to get to that next level.”