SimBaby assists nurses and doctors in medical training

The “new” baby at Palo Alto’s children’s hospital can go from a cooing, laughing bundle of joy to a crying disaster with no heartbeat with just a touch of a button.

SimBaby, or “Sammi” as it’s known around the halls, is a $35,000 simulator that allows nurses and doctors to experience an entire medical event — from dealing with a sudden decrease in blood pressure to explaining to the parents what’s happening — with the next best thing to a real baby.

The Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital held a baby shower for Sammi yesterday, displaying the range of medical simulations the “newborn” computer could do. Researchers began using Sammi in March and expect to have him — he’s on loan from Laerdal Medical Co., the makers of Rescusci-Anne — for another year.

With a computer hooked up to Sammi and the medical monitors, nurses and doctors in training must respond to Sammi’s noises, color, breathing and vital signs in an effort to treat whatever pediatric emergency has been dealt to them.

Lynda Knight, a registered nurse and the clinical nurse educator for life support at the hospital, is Sammi’s unofficial guardian, using the simulator in her study to compare traditional training methods

for pediatric advanced-life-support training versus simulator-based training.

So far, Knight said, there has not been much of a difference between the technical skill of nurses training on Sammi compared with nurses going through the traditional segmented training, but there have been trends showing that nurses training on the “baby” show better retention of skills, better teamwork and better communication skills.

Center for Nursing Excellence Director Amy Nichols said the nurses, pharmacists, therapists and physicians who go through such life-support training biannually had been testing their skills with things such as IVs or medications separately. The SimBaby allows all of those tests to be put together into an event, Nichols said.

“It’s real-life, real-time training,” she said. “When you’re in the training, you physiologically respond as if it was a real child.”

Dr. Alan Schroeder, a pediatric fellow at the hospital who used the defibrillator on Sammi a number of times, said that when an individual is involved with the simulation, his body “absolutely” responds. What also helps, he said, is that everything involved, such as the monitors, the tubes, the sounds the baby makes, is just like the hospital.

“For the students that come through, while there’s no substitute for real-life experience, this is as close as it gets,” Schroeder said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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