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Copenhagen vet students operate on teddy bears

Stuffed animals are operated on by veterinary students at the University of Copenhagen for practice. Juice and cake inside make it more realistic, explains student, who says it helps conquer fears

Juice in the veins, cake in the guts. They call it teddy bear surgery.

Under the title ‘introductory surgery exercises’, the so called ‘Bamsekirurgi’ is a regular Master’s course at the Faculty of Life Sciences where veterinary students operate on stuffed animals to practice technique and conquer their fears before operating on real pigs.

»You always have to cross an inner boundary the first time you operate a real animal, so I can imagine this course helps many« Katharina Opstrup, a Master’s veterinary student, explains to the University Post in an interview. »But in my case, I cannot say I see the connection between this and operating on real animals«.

Specialized teddies

It is not your ordinary teddy bear that the veterinary students operate on in the course. They are custom made, with both veins and guts.

»There is juice in the veins and cake dough in the guts«, explains Katharina, »So if you make the wrong cut and hit a vein you get covered in juice«.

Don’t you sometimes end up laughing?

»Actually, the juice and cake mass make it more realistic. You feel like you have to save the teddy bear, like a real animal in surgery« tells Katharina.

However, she smiles: »There was one episode when a guy got mayonnaise all over him because he made an operating mistake. That was very funny! «.

Technique, not anatomy

Although the teddies are custom made, they do not correspond to actual anatomic proportions. But it’s not about all that, Katharina explains.

»You have to learn anatomy and theory from home, from the textbooks. This course is just for practicing operating technique. Katharina continues: »Before it I used to practice simply by sewing at home. This course is much more helpful«.

»The course gives you a good idea of the operating situation. You get lost in the situation and really feel like the teddy must survive. Proportions are not that important in this case« Katharina concludes.

So far, just for Danish students

The course started originally as an experiment for a PhD thesis on emotions in veterinary surgery. It soon became very popular and follow-up studies have shown that students feel that this course makes them less afraid and more prepared when the time comes to operate on real animals. On top of this, this course reduces the use of laboratory animals

If you are an international student and really want to try to operate and save a teddy bear, unfortunately, you cannot do so at the University of Copenhagen. So far, this course is just for Danish students, explains Katharina, who works as a guidance counsellor as her student job.

»The veterinary line is very popular with Danish students so we simply don’t have enough places for international students. Especially on the practical courses«, says Katharina.

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