A surgical educational environment is potentially stressful and can negatively affect students' learning. The aim of the present study was to investigate the emotions experienced by veterinary students in relation to their first encounter with live-animal surgery and to identify possible sources of positive and negative emotions, respectively. During a Basic Surgical Skills course, 155 veterinary fourth-year students completed a survey. Of these, 26 students additionally participated in individual semi-structured interviews. The results of the study show that students often experienced a combination of emotions; 63% of students experienced negative emotions, while 58% experienced positive ones. In addition, 61% of students reported feeling excited or tense. Students' statements reveal that anxiety is perceived as counterproductive to learning, while excitement seems to enhance students' focus and engagement. Our study identified the most common sources of positive and negative emotions to be “being able to prepare well” and “lack of self-confidence,” respectively. Our findings suggest that there are factors that we can influence in the surgical learning environment to minimize negative emotions and enhance positive emotions and engagement, thereby improving students' learning.
Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 2012, Vol 39, Issue 4, p. 312-321