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In part 2 of our 2 part series on incorporating Low Stress Handling® practices and techniques within college and university veterinary curriculum, we offer a short interview between CattleDog Publishing’s Executive Director, Dr. Sally Foote, and Assistant Professor at the Community Practice at Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Michael Nappier. In this interview, they discuss how Dr. Nappier and his staff have incorporated Dr. Sophia Yin’s Low Stress Handling® techniques not only into the curriculum for the students but also how the Community Practice as a whole has incorporated those same techniques.

How do you incorporate Low Stress Handling™ into patient care for the Community Practice?

We start incorporating Low Stress Handling® in the students’ mindset for patient care on day one of the rotation. For most of them, this is a brand new idea so we take an hour to have Low Stress Handling rounds the first thing after general orientation on the first day. It still takes some time for the ideas to sink in so the most valuable part is having them get to see it in practice. Our entire Community Practice is Low Stress Handling® Silver Certified, so the people that get to do a lot of the teaching on the application are our technicians.

After your rotation, how do the students feel about their confidence in interacting with the animals presented for care?

I think the students gain a lot of confidence from their rotation with our Community Practice. It’s not uncommon for them to let me know at the end of the block that some of the things they learned or techniques they observed really changed their perception of how our patients should be handled and that just doing things the way they’ve always been done doesn’t work anymore.

Do you see a difference in the amount of student injury/near injury or stress on your rotation compared to other small animal rotations?

I don’t really have a good feel on injuries or near misses in the other parts of the hospital because we are somewhat separated from the referral services. However, I think we have the same number or fewer injuries or near misses despite handling many more animals in the average day than the referral services do. I had a great example the other day when I saw a student struggling to put a muzzle on a scared Chihuahua who was trying to bite. I stopped them and suggested trying a towel wrap instead which made all the difference in the world for the dog.

Do you see a difference in your patient’s stress compared to other departments?

There is a huge difference in stress levels between our patients and those in the rest of the hospital. Some of it has to do with the fact that referral appointments are generally much longer than primary care and so there is much more opportunity to add stressors. I get to see it on the occasions I am called in for a consultation with one of the patients in other areas of the hospital and it’s not unusual for the patient to already be so worked up that I am unable to touch them.

Do you help students create plans for stressed or aggressive animals?

Since Low Stress Handling® is generally a new concept for most of the students, we don’t do a lot of having them create the plan. A lot of what they get is getting to see us work through a plan with our technicians and getting the students involved in the application. I would like to see Low Stress Handling® incorporated earlier in the curriculum so that the students could be at a higher level when they get to us in the hospital.

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