Student experiences the cadaver lab

It was the first day of Anatomy and Physiology class. I didn’t quite know what my nursing program preparation would entail but I knew I wanted to be a nurse.

Getting through the classes required to get into the nursing program was non-negotiable. Anatomy and Physiology 1 and 2 are prerequisite classes. 

As I sat in lab the first day, not even realizing there was a cadaver on the other side of the wall, our instructor said something about going in to view the cadaver.

Wait. What? I was certainly in the wrong class. I was going to do what in this class? 

With my safety goggles on my head, I walked into the cadaver room. My stomach was a little queasy but it was mostly due to the strong formaldehyde smell.

Our instructor unzipped the long bag on the table and I viewed a dissected cadaver for the first time in my life. 

If someone would have asked me prior if I ever thought I would be working with a cadaver, my reply would have been absolutely no way. Never. But I made it through that first day. Then I made it through many more days. 

Soon, I didn’t think of my days as “making it through cadaver lab.” The cadaver lab was interesting and informative.

I had never seen the way muscles, organs and tissues looked inside the body. Since second grade when I first learned the basics of the human body, I’d had a rough idea of what was inside a human — but there is nothing else like seeing the real version.

Working with a cadaver quickly became part of my normal. The cadavers were there for science. As a student working toward a science degree, the cadavers were there for me – for my benefit and knowledge. 

I have held brains, hearts, kidneys, intestines… I’m able to recognize different disease pathologies in these organs that instructors have pointed out.

I have felt with my own gloved hands the structural difference between an artery and a vein. There are things that cannot be fully understood without seeing and examining them for oneself.

I’m still not a fan of the formaldehyde smell in my hair after a day working in the cadaver lab – but I can assure you a shower is an easy quick fix for that! 

Learning anatomy at Kirkwood in the way that I have has made me a huge supporter of having cadaver labs on college campuses. I understand so much more because of my experience in the cadaver lab.

If you’re hesitating about going into a medical program here at Kirkwood, I encourage you to take a chance on Anatomy and Physiology and the cadaver lab! You won’t regret it.

Categories: Editorials, Opinion