To pee or not to pee? A urine-free renal practical

Alison Lawrence Davidson, Derek Anthony Scott

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

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When providing practical classes for large, diverse groups, it can be challenging to provide enough equipment and resource to give every student an excellent ‘hands on’ practical experience. One of the issues experienced in recent years in our institution has been a rapid and large increase in students undertaking fundamental physiology courses. Many of these students may not actually be reading for a degree in medically-related sciences. In addition, concern was raised about health and safety or ethical concerns during human-based practicals now that we had such large student numbers. Turnover in teaching laboratory technical staff and a high occupancy rate for our teaching lab facilities also meant that it would be more efficient if practicals could be developed that could be supported by different members of technical staff of different academic disciplines, and if preparation and clear-up could be made more efficient.
Historically, our renal physiology practical in the junior level classes has involved student ingestion of various solutions, and then the class would analyse these urine samples. As the class became more diverse, it was clear that some of these solutions (e.g. those containing loop diuretics) may not be as suitable for some members of the class, plus the large numbers of students all collecting urine simultaneously meant that facilities were stretched and the clear-up for the practical was burdensome.
Hence, our School decided to develop a series of artificial urine samples that could be prepared in advance, whilst still allowing students to undertake full analysis on them and allow staff to rigorously assess them. The use of these samples and the reduction in time waiting for students to produce and collect urine samples means that we can divide classes into smaller groups for more effective teaching, and clear-up/staffing of the classes is far more efficient and timely.
Since the advent of this new version of the practical, the range of artificial urine samples has been expanded (e.g. to include samples such as urinary tract infection), and this class is now used by other departments such as medicine and dentistry as part of their renal teaching. These samples have also been included as part of practical examinations in Honours when assessing students’ analytical and physiological measurement capabilities, and their use have now been adopted in pharmacology teaching. Student engagement and enjoyment of the practical is high as the student can still do what they see as ‘a proper practical’, group sizes have been greatly reduced, and the technical burden on staff is much reduced. Recent feedback from course evaluation forms over the past five years has indicated that students all now view this practical extremely favourably and we believe this has contributed to the renewed popularity of renal physiology teaching since the inception of our School review.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventPractical innovations in life science education - Physiological Society HQ, Hodgkin-Huxley House, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Apr 201728 Apr 2017


WorkshopPractical innovations in life science education
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • urine
  • renal
  • physiology
  • technician
  • practical skills
  • practical class
  • laboratory


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