The show must go on. And while COVID-19 meant we had to do without an official launch, iM3 opened its Advanced Centre for Education (ACE) in Duleek, Co Meath, Ireland, this past summer. We invested €1.5 million into it because we wanted to create the best possible facility to help vets and nurses become proficient in the practice of veterinary dentistry.
Dentistry is a famously overlooked subject in the veterinary world. In human medicine, dentistry is its own discipline, while in veterinary medicine it is rarely a significant part of the curriculum for vets or nurses. And although a whopping 80 percent of veterinary patients have some level of dental disease, dentistry only accounts for about 7 percent of a typical practice’s gross income (Berg, 2020). Dentistry is technically demanding and many vets have little formal pre-grad training, so dentistry has somewhat developed a “delay and worry about it later” precedent.
iM3, along with many professional development organisations, has long recognised the limited amount of significant dental education available and has tried to bridge that gap. Over the years, iM3 has increasingly supported courses that provide post-graduate and specialist dental training. Trying to meet requests for more frequent, diverse and larger capacity courses identified a need for a more advanced facility.
Most veterinary dental courses take place in spaces built or designed for other activities. The ACE was designed specifically to work for teaching veterinary dentistry first and foremost. Veterinary dentistry is a fast-expanding field and the upskilling of veterinary professionals is essential to provide the care that people now expect for their pets, as well as to allow practices to remain competitive.
It was our goal to build a centre where dental procedures could be taught and be realistically simulated, and where vets and nurses could become familiar with using everything from the most basic dental equipment and instruments to the more advanced innovations. We can support courses guiding the entry-level dental practitioners right up to the most advanced level of training.
iM3 ACE is a teaching and learning environment intended to promote engaging education. Adult learning tends to be a social activity and professionals want to learn how to solve immediate problems that they have in their everyday practice. They’ll discuss current challenges with their peers and build on the knowledge and skills they already have. Given the right environment – a place where people can converse, explore and share their work – veterinary professionals will learn from each other along with learning from the experts.
Adult learning comes with its own set of challenges. It was important to keep this in mind when designing ACE. Adults are balancing their own clinical practice, home life and everyday pressures; sometimes adding “tertiary study” into the mix can bring additional stress. The ACE facility is bright, welcoming, informal and comfortable. The student “wet pods” are in circles to encourage interaction. Music can be played in the different areas to invoke calm or fun as needed. We often arrange social evenings so people can get to know each other, relax, chat about their experiences and make some lasting connections. We know negative emotions can block learning so we do what we can to make the learning experience positive.
As well as working for the learner, we wanted ACE to be instructor friendly. To ensure that instructors can easily present, explain and demonstrate content, we’ve provided a comfortable technology-enhanced lecture room with large screen projection, electronic whiteboard and full audio. The lecturer’s station in the wet lab has its own dental unit, electronic white board, computer, VetCAT and display screens.
And we didn’t stop there: we created a “green room” for lecturers to hide in between session. Did I say “hide”? I meant relax or catch up on emails or notes. Because lecturers are “on” extensively during sessions, it’s important to provide a place where they can “breathe out” and recharge.
The wet lab, or practical room, is large and flexible. Individual bespoke “wet pods” accommodate up to 32 students. These ergonomic pods are adaptable so that they can be converted to regular tables to allow us to host non-dental courses as well. The pods are fully equipped with iM3 exclusive veterinary dental equipment, including high-end dental units, ultrasonic scalers, individual lighting and Salli chairs.
The practical room also boasts eight X-ray stations and a full range of hand instruments and loupes, as well as advanced equipment such as Piezo surgery units and a CBCT scanner. We also provide tablets for the students to use while they’re here, so that they can study and share their radiographs and access lecture notes throughout the course.
We’re also happy to provide event management including logistics and catering. ACE is in the small town of Duleek in an area known as the Boyne Valley region and, as part of Ireland’s Ancient East, it is renowned for history and tradition. We’re not far from Dublin which allows visitors to take advantage of the lively capital city. They can take in the classic tourist sights, experience multi-cultural food or just catch a gig, grab a pint and enjoy the craic (fun) – once restrictions are lifted, of course.
Meals at ACE are catered by a local award-winning restaurant which serves great-tasting hearty food using the best of local ingredients. The food always gets rave reviews and meals are tailored to any dietary restrictions necessary. When people have spent the morning engrossed in learning new content and practising new skills, relaxing and chatting with colleagues over a good lunch provides them with renewed energy to tackle the afternoon.
In these challenging times of a global pandemic, we’ve been committed to providing a safe and healthy environment by adhering to government recommendations and guidelines. The size of the facility enabled us to run COVID-19 safe courses this summer. We’re confident that as the situation improves, we’ll be able to build on what we’ve begun and be able to support the learning that will enhance the skill sets of veterinary professionals throughout the world.