Introduction: Care of battle casualties is a central role of military medical practitioners. Historically, certain trauma procedural skills have been learnt through live tissue training. However, faced with opposition from community members and academics, who argue equivalence of non-animal alternatives, this is now being phased out. This study explores Australian military medical practitioners' experiences of and attitudes towards live tissue training.
Method: We performed a phenomenologically driven qualitative exploration of individuals' experiences of live tissue trauma training. 32 medical officers volunteered for the study. In-depth interviews were conducted with 15 practitioners (60% Army, 20% Air Force, 20% Navy; 33% surgical, 53% critical care, 13% general practice). Qualitative data were subjected to content analysis, with key themes identified using manual and computer-assisted coding.
Results: Live tissue training was valued by military medical practitioners, particularly because of the realistic feel of tissues and physiological responsiveness to treatment. Learner-perceived value of live tissue training was higher for complex skills and those requiring delicate tissue handling. 100% of surgeons and critical care doctors regarded live tissue as the only suitable model for learning repair of penetrating cardiac injury. Live tissue training was felt to enhance self-efficacy, particularly for rarely applied skills. Though conscious of the social and ethical context of live tissue training, >90% of participants reported positive emotional responses to live tissue training.
Conclusion: In contrast to published research, live tissue training was thought by participants to possess characteristics that are not yet replicable using alternative learning aids. The experienced positive values of live tissue training should inform the decision to move towards non-animal alternatives.