RVC Student Gains Invaluable Surgical Skills at Hicks ITC

Sammie Nightingale is just one of the students who recently joined us at our International Training Centre in Ooty, Southern India...

India is an incredible country, and while Goa might be its smallest state it still has so much to offer! From the beautiful beaches to the historic old Goa, there is plenty to see and enjoy in the available free time. The drive from the airport to the WVS clinic showcases some of the beautiful scenery. The WVS clinic is in the village of Assagao, which is also the place I would call home for the next two weeks. When you wander around Assagao you will see many free-roaming dogs. The stray dog population here is overwhelming, especially compared to the UK where we have a relatively very small stray population. Many of these dogs have ear notches, which communicates that the dogs have been neutered and given an anti-rabies vaccine at the WVS centre. This shows the great job that WVS is doing in this area!

An average day at the project consisted of kennel rounds, preparing patients for surgery and doing spay/neuter surgeries. You have a partner for the course, so whilst one of you operates the other monitors the anaesthetic, then you swap. Ward rounds consisted of examining the dogs that were operated on the previous day, paying particular attention to their pain and wound score. Based on this examination it is decided if the dog is fit for release. After this the first set of dogs for surgery are given their pre-medication. Once the dogs are sufficiently sedated they are moved to the prep area – which is constantly a hive of activity! Here the dogs are weighed, clinically examined, clipped, scrubbed, IV access is established and the dog is induced. At this stage the animals are given multi-modal analgesia, IV fluids, Ivermectin and an anti-rabies vaccination. Post-induction the dogs are moved through to theatre where they are intubated and undergo their final scrub before surgery. Once the surgery has been completed it is the surgeon’s job to recover the animal in its kennel before they return to be the anaesthetist for the next surgery.

Prior to attending the course, I had scrubbed in on a couple of surgeries, but I hadn’t done a bitch spay. By the end of the two weeks I could confidently complete a bitch spay with minimal/ no assistance! The surgical experience, both in terms of skills and confidence, that I gained on this course has been invaluable. Whilst the anaesthesia protocols used in India are very different to what is used in the UK, the patients are the same. Anaesthesia monitoring is a huge part of veterinary work, and the course aims to make vets more familiar with clinical parameters during anaesthesia and what to do if the parameters are abnormal.

The weekend during the WVS trip is split between leisure time and veterinary work. First, we joined the Mission Rabies team to assist the field team vaccinating dogs against rabies in one of the rural villages. In a few hours the team vaccinated 77 free roaming and owned dogs. Teams are out every day, regardless of the weather, vaccinating all dogs seen and educating the local people about rabies. These teams work incredibly hard, and thanks to their hard work there has been a reduction in the rabies-related fatalities. I also had the privilege of visiting the mobile theatre unit as it was parked in a nearby rural village. This truck is the only one of its kind and is equipped with a teaching area, kitchen, x-ray facilities, a prep area and a theatre. It is actually better equipped than some first opinion vet practices in the UK! This truck spends most of its time travelling to remote villages in India to carry out a vaccination and sterilisation programme. This was made possible by the sponsorship of many global companies and local donations. The unique project has had an incredible impact on rural communities and will continue to do so long into the future.  On Sunday we spent the day relaxing at one of Goa’s many beautiful beaches – definitely well worth a visit!

Throughout the course there were four lectures. My favourite lecture was about the management of traumatic wounds, which gave very practical advice about how to treat common presentations such as burns and large wounds unable to be closed surgically. I have already used some of the techniques I learnt at WVS in clinical practice back in the UK, and I will no doubt continue to do so throughout the rest of my veterinary career.

I learnt so much working with WVS. The course is so hands-on for both surgery and anaesthesia, making this an incredible opportunity for veterinary students and recent graduates. The course leaders are so passionate about animal welfare and improving veterinary education, which really shows in this course and I truly felt welcomed into the WVS family during my stay. I’d love to work with WVS again in the future, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the course to anyone!

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