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The course "Management of Fluid and Electrolyte Disorders" is an applied physiology course taught using lectures and paper-based cases. The course approaches fluid therapy from both basic science and clinical perspectives. While paper cases provide a basis for application of basic science concepts, they lack key components of genuine clinical cases that, by nature, are diverse, change over time, and respond in unique ways to therapeutic interventions. We developed a dynamic model using STELLA software that simulates normal and abnormal fluid and electrolyte balance in the dog. Students interact, not with the underlying model, but with a user interface that provides sufficient data (skin turgor, chemistry panel, etc.) for the clinical assessment of patients and an opportunity for treatment. Students administer fluids and supplements, and the model responds in "real time," requiring regular reassessment and, potentially, adaptation of the treatment strategy. The level of success is determined by clinical outcome, including improvement, deterioration, or death. We expected that the simulated cases could be used to teach both the clinical and basic science of fluid therapy. The simulation provides exposure to a realistic clinical environment, and students tend to focus on this aspect of the simulation while, for the most part, ignoring an exploration of the underlying physiological basis for patient responses. We discuss how the instructor's expertise can provide sufficient support, feedback, and scaffolding so that students can extract maximum understanding of the basic science in the context of assessing and treating at the clinical level.
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