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The use of an evidence-based approach for teaching student veterinary nurses during workplace anaesthesia training. Part 1

02 September 2021
9 mins read
Volume 12 · Issue 7
Table 1. Applied use of Grow's self-directed learning model in the field of anaesthesia instruction


Registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) are often required to take up the role of a teacher for student veterinary nurses (SVNs) during workplace learning. Formal education training is not a routine part of the veterinary nurse curriculum and so it is common that RVNs undertaking this role do so without background knowledge of education theory. In the same way that evidence-based medicine guides clinical decisions, evidence can guide educational practice and the ways that RVNs teach SVNs. Evidence-based education is particularly valuable for workplace learning, which can be an environment where it is particularly challenging to teach and learn. This may be particularly the case during anaesthesia, when the RVN is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of the anaesthetised patient. Part 1 of this article will discuss the importance of evidence-based education, give an insight into the characteristics of SVNs as adult learners, and discuss the importance of developing SVNs as self-directed learners. While many of the educational theories and initially conceived frameworks discussed may be dated, this article aims to contextualise them into the niche area of veterinary nurse workplace education, using supportive contemporary evidence, to show how they can be used to help us understand the challenges RVNs face. Part 2 will focus on using these ideas to develop strategies to strengthen our teaching approaches.

Student veterinary nurses (SVNs) generally receive their practical anaesthesia training during placements, or at their place of employment. Although overall supervision and direction is provided by a veterinary surgeon, the role of ‘instructor’, ‘tutor’ or ‘coach’ during anaesthesia often falls to a registered veterinary nurse (RVN). In contrast with classroom-based lecturers, RVNs in clinical practice generally have minimal to no formal ‘education training’ and approaches to this role can vary. In the same way as literature and resources help develop clinical practice, an understanding of education theories can develop the instructor's skills and identity as a teacher (Butcher and Stoncel, 2012).

Without understanding educational theories and techniques, it is common to rely on one's own personal experiences of education to provide a framework for teaching (Kaufman, 2003). This could include mirroring positive experiences gained from one's own ‘role model’ instructors or avoiding negative experiences such as a ‘sink or swim’ approach and intense questioning. In the experience of the authors, while there is great benefit to learning from role models, all learners are different and therefore what worked for us (as a learner) might not work for our own students. Engaging more with an evidence-based approach to teaching helps to build on experience and allow RVNs to problem-solve their teaching and develop techniques to maximise learning.

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