The Diagnostic Challenge is a complex program that is always evolving to fit
the needs of the student's education and overall the quality of their
experience. The program has many levels and there is bound to be a few
questions. Below is a list of the most common question and answers about
The Diagnostic Challenges are multidisciplinary, case-based exercises offered to
veterinary students during the second year of vet school. Conducted
collaboratively by instructors and visiting veterinarians in the fall semester,
the Diagnostic Challenge (DC) strives to encourage students to apply the
knowledge and problem-solving skills learned in the classroom to simulated
clinical cases. For 4 days during two designated weeks of the second year,
large blocks of time are created during which students, divided into groups or
"clinics" of 4-5 students, are assigned a clinical case to investigate and
diagnose. Although no live animals are used, each case has a client who
represents the patient (which may be a dog, cat, horse, sheep or any other
domestic or exotic animal) as owner or caretaker. Working with the client and
learning to interact effectively with the other students in the clinic bring
some important (nonscientific) educational issues into the DC experience.
There are three main groups of people that make up the DCs - Client,
Facilitator, and Clinic Team. Below is an explanation of the roles and
expectation/functions of each "player."
Clients are volunteers who are unknown to the students (i.e. parents of 3rd
or 4th year students, community members, alumni, nonDVM faculty,
etc.), they have proven to be the most realistic and effective simulated
DC Clients DO NOT know what is wrong with their patient/herd,
thus giving the sense of realism for both the students and client
Most commonly play themselves, with a few changes depending on their
Every Client is paired with a Facilitator.
Facilitators are DVMs that are typically practitioners, alumni, faculty
The role of the facilitator is to to direct the DC case and:
- Guide and teach the students
- Provide all case material and details
- Evaluate the students and medical records
- Provide guidance and support to the client
The Clinic Team, also referred to as the "Clinic," are 2nd year
veterinary students participating in the program. Typically there are five
students per clinic (occasionally there are 6). Their role is to
approach this scenario as if it was a real case coming into their clinic,
working with the client, the patient, and learning along the way.
The "case simulations" are 1 week long and each simulation is done twice in the
fall semester. Typically, there are 5 different cases running simultaneously,
where four "clinic teams" are assigned to each case. Clients are paired with
Facilitators, and each pair has two clinics. Therefore, each case has two
facilitator/client pairs and 4 clinic teams.
Here is a diagram to better illustrate this concept:
Veterinary medicine is a profession that deals with animals and people.
Veterinary students spend four years learning the scientific knowledge and
technical skills they will need in order to diagnose and treat the animals under
their care. However, very little time in the curriculum is devoted to the
"people skills" which are also needed to be a successful veterinarian. The
ability to communicate and listen effectively and to be sensitive to a client's
individual circumstances are just as important in veterinary medicine as they
are in human medicine. Because animals can't talk, a positive relationship
between veterinarian and client can be significant in the veterinarian's ability
to help the patient. Second year veterinary students are just learning these
communication skills. At this stage, the opportunity to explain things and
answer questions is invaluable. We often think we understand something until
someone asks us to explain it!
The DC's provide an innovative way for veterinary students to begin
developing good client skills early in the curriculum. In addition, most
students find that working with clients not only improves their communication
skills but also increases their knowledge and understanding of the subject
matter because they have to be able to answer client questions and logically
explain the conditions of the case. Learning is enhanced because the students
must understand the material well enough to educate the client.
Volunteer clients have a unique opportunity to participate in the educational
process of veterinary students. Although the time commitment is large for four
days, most clients enjoy the experience and feel that they have been able to
contribute to the development of the next generation of veterinarians.
DC clients need to be in Pullman on the day before the DC begins to
participate in the morning training session (8 am to 12 pm) and for an evening
meeting (6 pm) with their assigned facilitator. You need to be
available to meet with the students pretty much all day on Days 1-3, and
sometimes students may need to call you in the evenings (depending on your
case). Plan to be here until at least 5 pm on day 3. Many clients like to attend
the student presentations (DC Grand Rounds) on Day 4 - but that is by no means
for more information on time requirements and an example of a
typical weekly schedule.
Anyone (client, facilitator, or clinic team) can call a "time out" anytime
during an interview. A "time out" pauses the current session and allows
the opportunity to ask a question, get clarification, or confer with the rest of
team/consultant on any issue that caused the "time out." At the conclusion
of the "time out" the interview will continue at the same point where the pause
This occurs occasionally in cases, where time "leaps" forward in
order to observe changes in clinic signs over time or test results
returned in a timely manner. Since the DCs are condensed into 4 days (3
of them to determine the outcome of the cases) we have to "leap" ahead
in time (days, weeks, or months) to give the students a realistic sense
of what would occur naturally.
New clients are welcome. If you would like to volunteer or would like further
information, please contact Dr. Steve Hines (335-6069) or Dr. Rachel Halsey