In a room in the obstetrics unit at Franciscan St. Anthony Health, Noelle is giving birth to baby Hal.
One minute, everything seems fine. But in a moment—or with the push of a button—the situation can change from Noelle giving birth to a healthy baby to a complicated delivery that might wind up with trauma to either the mother or infant.
Noelle and Hal are mother and child simulation dolls that allow the nurses at Franciscan St. Anthony Health to practice a wide variety of birthing scenarios to help them be better prepared for real, live patients.
“They allow us to do drills and simulate obstetrical emergencies so we can practice them,” says Kathy Podorsek, the OB director at Franciscan St. Anthony Health. “So when emergencies happen, we have real-time experience.”
Nurses will each do drills with the simulator twice a year, and will do several scenarios per drill. Each session lasts about three hours, Podorsek says. As many as 100 nurses will participate in the drills, from labor and delivery as well as nurses from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, post-partum care.
When nurses train with Noelle and Hal, they have no idea what awaits them. The simulators can be programmed for a wide range of options, from a normal delivery to a placenta abruption, cardiac arrest or any other scenario that can be imagined.
The simulators are incredibly lifelike. Noelle has a dilating cervix, and nurses can add simulation blood, urine or blood clots.
Amber Kirrin, OB educator for Franciscan St. Anthony Health, says the simulators have an endless number of scenarios built into it, but can also be programmed to meet specific needs.
“If we specifically want Noelle to have a seizure during labor, or if we have things we want her to say, we can change it,” Kirrin says.
Newborn simulator Hal can also suffer from a wide variety of complications, as well.
“Hal can have any type of baby emergency,” Podorsek says. “Nurses can practice emergency baby procedures, from starting IV’s to intubation.”
Not only do you practice the procedures, nurses can tell if they’re performing them properly, Kirrin says.
“Hal can cry like a normal newborn, or he can turn blue or dusky,” she says. “If you’re doing compressions, you can tell if you’re doing them fast enough, long enough, or doing things just right. He can change from being blue to not being blue anymore.”
Providing optimal treatment is important, says Sharon Werner, Franciscan Alliance regional director of risk management. Werner helped the hospital acquire the simulators.
“In the past, health care professionals had very few avenues when attempting to strengthen their skills on the management of obstetrical emergencies,” Werner says. “Simulation-based learning can help develop the health professionals’ knowledge, skills and attitudes prior to interacting with an actual patient emergency, thereby producing the best outcomes for our patients.”
Kirrin says Noelle and Hal are important tools not only to learn how to deal with patient emergencies, but also how to communicate with each other.
“It’s super important, because nurses can experience things before they’re on the floor, and it’s especially important for newer staff members,” Kirrin says.
The simulations also help nurses learn how to relate to the patients, and part of the drills include learning how to talk with the pregnant mother, Kirrin says.
“You can talk to her and explain what’s going on if an emergency is occurring,” she says. “This is something that helps you satisfy patients as well as a safety initiative.”
Communication can be a vital tool during emergencies, Kirrin says.
“From physicians to nurses to patients, we want everything covered,” Kirrin says. “These scenarios are excellent for communication. Part of every emergency is scrambling, but we want to be able to scramble more effectively.”