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New high-tech K9 joins Veterinary Technology program

New high-tech K9 joins Veterinary Technology program

NORFOLK, Neb. – The newest member of the team in one program at Northeast Community College has a way of barking out 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 U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), K9 Diesel is a state-of-the-art skills trainer that simulates active breathing, audio queues (four different sounds an injured dog makes), and over 28 different features and medical scenarios. Each training site is designed to replicate the look, feel, and function of actual medical procedures. 

“We were looking at ways to have some type of a simulation for emergencies because we do have a few students who work in emergency practice, plus everybody in practice sees emergencies. And so how do you make it as lifelike as possible,” said Dr. Michael Cooper, vet tech program director/instructor. “We looked at several different manikins. They were all pretty cheesy until we saw this guy.” 

K9 Diesel replicates the look of a Belgian Malinois breed of service dog that can bark, breathe and bleed. It includes interchangeable limbs and injuries to help provide greater flexibility to vary 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 that this one had to be pretty good because this is what the Department of Defense uses. It does so many different things and it opens a lot of avenues. So not only can we use it in several different labs, from anesthesia to emergency to nursing, you can also do CE (continuing education) for our vet techs.”

 “We can also do first aid classes for dog owners,” added Dr. Kassie Wessendorf, vet tech instructor. “It’s also good for working with police personnel who have working dogs, search dogs, and even hunting dogs.”  

What makes K9 Diesel most unique is its ability to easily pre-program a training scenario which can be named and saved for future use. This allows instructors to focus on the techniques of the learner. The K9 simulator functions on its own during the exercise, capturing the results for review in a debriefing.

Johnny Estep, a retired military medical specialist who is now trainer-manager for TacMed, the company that sells the simulator, said the manikin is as close as it can get to having a real dog in the lab.

“It’s the movement, the sounds, and the different wounds that we see a lot of especially in working with the DOD with military working dogs and police dogs.”

Named in memory of the heroic canine who died in the line of duty following the 2015 Paris terror attacks, K9 Diesel is operated through a remote-control device which operates breathing and other vital signs. Through the remote, the instructor can stand feet away from where the manikin is to see how well the patient is being cared for.

“(The manikin) will die if he is not being treated correctly,” Estep said. “When we were all learning, you would practice on a stuffed animal. It was never breathing or anything. The realism with this is, you see the actual effects of the care the students are giving; what they’re doing to save the dog’s life.”

Clients have the ability to pick the types of injuries that come with the simulator. There are different legs that include amputation, compound fractures, burns, axillary wounds, and gunshot wounds, among others.  

“We worked with Jamie Hyneman from (the Discovery Channel program) MythBusters,” Estep said. “He helped design the circuitry system in the K9s. People who worked in special effects in Hollywood build the K9 manikins for TacMed. Since Hollywood has gone digital, it didn’t need all those people who built special effects, but we need them. That’s what gives our products the movie effect realism you can see in this dog.”

LVT Josh Schlote, vet tech instructor, said the manikin will be helpful with students as they continue to develop their critical thinking skills. He said that will come to light in situations where a student will see a visible wound. 

“But what happens when they can’t see inside like the chest cavity or something that may not be too obvious,” Schlote said. “This will help make sure that we don’t get, what we refer to as, “tunnel vision” when students say, ‘Oh, here’s my injury, I have to take care of this.’ This particular teaching tool may help them realize that they may have something like a tension pneumothorax going on leading them to evaluate the entire patient.”

It will also be beneficial assisting new students understand what it is like to be involved in a real emergency. Wessendorf said the simulator can help students from stressing out too much and shut down at a critical time.

“We can now simulate that scenario and if you have that student that freezes, you can pause, let them collect themselves and then they can come back and we can work through 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 as they go out into practice.”

In addition to continuing education opportunities for the community, Cooper foresees K9 Diesel will be popular when Northeast hosts several career days for junior high and high school students. And the Vet Tech team is thinking outside the box on how other programs at the College may be able to use it.

“The way this thing is engineered is phenomenal,” Cooper said. “Pre-engineering students can come in and just see how it is built. Information Technology can look at how this manikin operates the way it does with so many electronics in it. Robotics would be another program that would have an interest.” 

The new manikin comes months after the Veterinary Technology program opened its new state-of-the-art building on the Acklie College Farm, a mile east of the main campus in Norfolk. The new space in the building has permitted for the addition of new instructional tools that will allow students to become successful veterinary technicians. Cooper said technology, like K9 Diesel, demonstrates that the program is second to none.

“This is best simulation out there. And other than the real thing, this is as good as it gets,” he said. “If you can do this and handle it, it makes going to that next level easier.”


                                                                                                 PHOTO CUTLINE 

Dr. Kassie Wessendorf, veterinary technology instructor at Northeast Community College, rolls over K9 Diesel, a high-tech simulator the College is incorporating into the program as Josh Scholte, LVT (left) and Dr. Michael Cooper, vet tech instructors, look on. Designed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, K9 Diesel is a state-of-the-art skills trainer that simulates active breathing, audio queues (four different sounds an injured dog makes), and over 28 different features and medical scenarios.