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Case’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing one of the first to witness birth of the latest teaching tool: “SimBaby”

It cries, coughs, grunts, snores and responds to the human touch. It even vomits and wears a diaper. It’s “SimBaby,” the latest technological birth and hands-on learning tool being used by neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) students at Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. This month, the school will receive one of the first SimBaby simulators in the United States and the first one at a nursing school in Ohio.

SimBaby is a $28,000, high-tech robotic simulator that also breathes, has a pulse, and maintains heart rhythm and blood pressure. It can be programmed to simulate a range of illnesses and medical emergencies, including cardiac arrest and breathing difficulties. Students are told of SimBaby’s “symptoms” and must perform the appropriate assessments and treatments. SimBaby’s condition improves or deteriorates depending on the student’s intervention.

“Simulation training is rapidly advancing as an important component of nursing and medical education,” said Donna Dowling, an assistant professor of nursing at Case and expert in neonatal nursing practices. “Our goal is to provide students the opportunity to simulate an emergency, analyze the situation and think critically in forming and implementing a plan of case management. SimBaby is designed to help students learn what it’s like to have to make decisions quickly in an environment where it is safe to make mistakes.”

Graduates of the NNP program have the knowledge and skills to assess, evaluate and intervene appropriately to manage the care of critically ill neonates, Dowling explains.

The size of a three-month-old infant, SimBaby has realistic anatomy, including an airway that allows for intubation practice since infants’ airways are very small and tend to be difficult to keep open during emergencies. SimBaby can simulate a wide range of spontaneous breathing patterns. The instructor can modify both the lung capacity and airway resistance.

In addition, the instructor can program SimBaby to simulate consciousness, seizures, or respond to stimuli through varying degrees of torso movements. SimBaby also has interchangeable pupils with three different pupil sizes.

In the last few years, Case’s School of Nursing has improved an already advanced learning environment by redeveloping its Learning Resource Center (LRC) to include a Multimedia Simulation Center, a Cyber Café, the school’s Center for Bioinformatics and Health Promotion, and significant upgrades to its Clinical Teaching Center.

SimBaby joins Sim-Man, which has been in use in the Multimedia Simulation Center since 2002. Sim-Man is the exact size of the average male adult which can also be programmed to simulate a range of illnesses and injuries.

“SimBaby, along with Sim-Man, gives all of our nursing students the opportunity to gain experience in dealing with many situations before they face them in a hospital or in an unstructured emergency environment,” said Dowling. “But our neonatal nurse practitioner students in particular will benefit from the real-life scenarios that SimBaby provides. Instructors will program how the baby should respond, and in the process, we’re teaching critical thinking skills, emergency response, and management of the infant’s care.”

SimBaby will be able to provide valuable learning experiences for students in the Flight Nursing and Nurse Anesthesia programs at the School of Nursing, Dowling added.

The Multimedia Simulation Center also includes Cath-Sim, a computer unit and software program that simulates the experience of inserting an intravenous catheter and drawing blood from various types of patients, including infants. The center has two Cath-Sim units.

The Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program at Case was re-established in 2001 with support from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The program had been temporarily halted in the mid-1990s. Students must already have two years of experience in neonatal nursing to qualify for the nurse practitioner program. Students in the NNP program benefit from clinical experiences at a number of Cleveland-area hospitals, including Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital and MetroHealth Medical Center. The hospitals’ NICUs provide students with a wide range of experiences in the management of acutely and chronically ill high-risk preemies throughout their hospitalization.

“Nurse practitioners are essential to the delivery of quality health care to all persons,” Dowling said. “As the need for health care increases, nurses in advanced practice must have the knowledge, skills and sensitivity to care for patients in many settings. The role of the neonatal nurse practitioner encompasses all of that knowledge and applies it to the health promotion and care for the special needs of infants.”

 

About Case Western Reserve University

Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work. http://www.case.edu.