7 Tips to Survive Cadaver Lab

For all of you SPT's that are about to start PT school this month, this summer, or even this upcoming fall, this blog is for you! As physical therapists, we are the HUMAN BODY MOVEMENT EXPERTS! Therefore, we basically have to know everything about our body and how it moves.

With PT starting around the corner, that means CADAVER LAB! This is an awesome opportunity to learn about the human body and see how special it really is. We want to give you a few tips on how to survive the cadaver lab:


1. You’re not the only one freaked out: Others in your class are just as nervous as you are about the experience. Knowing that you’re not the only one experiencing these emotions should give you some sense of comfort. It's sobering experience, but remember, each person chose to donate their body to science. They want you to learn from them!

2. Watch video dissections: Having an idea of what you will be working with will accustom you to what you will experience come the first day of lab. Watching videos or looking at cadaver pictures will desensitize you and lessen the anxiety of your first cadaver experience. Watching videos ahead of time might also get you ahead of the day's dissection!

3. You’ll get over it….Quickly: After the first day of dissection, I was surprised at how quickly I became desensitized to the experience as a whole. Before you know it, you will be reflecting the rectus femoris without batting an eyelash.

4. Clothes: Wear clothing you don’t care about. Lab could get messy and you don’t want formaldehyde on your new jeans. Designate a pair of scrubs ONLY for the cadaver lab. Wear an old pair of gym shoes you're planning on getting rid of. Even wear an old pair of socks, sports bra, undershirt, shorts, you name it. You really don't want to keep any of the clothes after you finish cadaver lab. 

5. Smell:  Use Vicks Vapor Rub under your nose to avoid bad smells. Lotion your hands with a pleasant scent and use non latex gloves to avoid any lingering scents on your hands for the rest of the day. Washing your hands with lemons or mouth wash is also a great way to reduce odors.

6. Know your strengths: Defer tasks to group members who have more strength in a certain area. For example, if one of your group members has a more steady hand, let them dissect the delicate structures.

7. Stay clean: Keep yourself, your instruments, and your station as clean as possible after lab. Keep the donor hydrated as well to reduce the risk for mold and for an overall better lab experience. Don't forget to wipe down the cadaver tank after each session too!

Good luck with your human anatomy and physiology cadaver lab, wherever that is in your journey as a SPT! Don't forget, this is an awesome experience for you to really dive in and learn about the body. 

Thank You For Your Attention!

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