Well, all of that. You do need to know how to handle animals, how to set up the right surgical environment, what the right ergonomics are, what set of instruments and other equipment you do need, and of course how to correctly perform the procedures you need to do. For example when you attend a course that I teach, one of the most important things that you learn is the ability to be comfortable with the microscope. This is a completely different kind of surgery. When you go under the microscope, everything feels different and strange, working so your hands can go in the direction that you expect them to go. It takes time to adjust and learn that skill.
Then you need to learn how to be comfortable working with the microscope, micro-instruments, micro-sutures. You need to learn how to gently dissect the tissues of rats and mice, as mice have very fragile vessels and tissues. You must be very careful with how to handle that. You must learn how to perform the basic surgical techniques, such as vessel ligations, cannulations and of course microvascular surgery. You will learn how to create a surgical plan, step-by-step procedures paying attention to little details. You really must sit down and make the plan, whatever it is you do. It’s also important that you learn troubleshooting in the course.
By doing the lab work during courses like this, you encounter all kinds of mistakes and all kinds of trouble, for example: the clamp came out, you ripped something, etc. You have to learn not to panic and what to do to fix it to save the animal’s life and to go on with your experiment, so you won’t lose the data, the animals or expensive drugs.
After taking such a course, people will be more sufficient, more confident, more comfortable in performing different difficult procedures with minimal number of animals used. Thus, students learn not only how to operate under a microscope, but the whole nine yards of the surgery. A whole world of microsurgery and animal surgery opens up for them when you take courses like that. They can also practice on their own to improve the skills we give them.
“It’s a skill, the more you do it, the better you become.”