How Birth Simulators Work

A Day in the Life of a Perpetually Pregnant Robot
Throughout the simulated delivery, vital signs and fetal data are monitored, tracked and recorded.
Throughout the simulated delivery, vital signs and fetal data are monitored, tracked and recorded.
Image courtesy of Gaumard Scientific

So, just how do students interact with Noelle? Britt Guerrero, ARNP walked us through a typical teaching situation:

  1. The student is introduced to the patient, Noelle, via a mock shift report.
  2. Details like contraction frequency, whether or not the patient's amniotic fluid sac has ruptured, and cervical dilation are all reviewed.
  3. Information about the baby is relayed, including position and heart rate.
  4. The student is also shown a labor strip, which is a readout that shows the baby's heart rate, so the student can monitor how the mother's contractions are affecting fetus.
  5. From this point, the labor is often changed on the fly to put students through their paces. Labor can be sped up or slowed down, the fetus can be triggered to exhibit signs of distress, or the mother can experience a heart attack or stroke.
  6. Students address issues as they arise with the end goal of a successful delivery.

This is just one scenario. There are literally thousands of potential versions of the birth, based on how the simulation began and what elements are introduced by the instructor. Throughout the delivery exercise, conductive skin on the robotic mother and child gives realistic feedback to students via the same equipment they would use on real patients, adding a high degree of realism to the proceedings.

At each step of the process, the instructor decides if the students are handling the situation properly, and adjusts the simulation accordingly. The protocols instructors use for these simulations are developed around guidelines set forth by AWHONN (Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses) and ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists). The school or hospital where the simulation is being performed also establishes guidelines for simulations exercises based on its curriculum. Each simulation is tracked and documented so instructors and students can review the patient file once delivery is complete.

It's clear that birth simulators add an extra dimension to the training of obstetrics personnel. New software and hardware is always being developed to more accurately replicate human deliveries in order to increase practitioner knowledge and, in turn, patient safety. Eventually, robotic simulators will likely be equipped with a full complement of bodily fluids, multiple-birth options and the ability to give emotional feedback.

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