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Sick “Baby” improves HCHD nurses’ expertise

Swaddled in a blanket, she looks like any other baby. But she’s not. In her short life, the 7 pounds, 21-inches long, baby girl has suffered several health issues — she was born limp and without vital signs, suffered several seizures along with many other health issues.

Nurses work with her daily, but she doesn’t get better. And that’s a good thing.

This baby girl is different; she’s a baby simulator. By being sick, she provides nurses at the Harris County Hospital District a way to hone their skills to help the most vulnerable patients — newborns.

The Harris County Hospital District’s Nursing Education Program recently purchased a SimNewB, a $22,000 advanced neonatal simulator. SimNewB looks and acts like a newborn baby.

Even for seasoned professionals, caring for newborns can be difficult because of their size, fragility and unknown health conditions. But by practicing with the baby simulator, new and experienced nurses are able to put their skills into action when it really counts.

HCHD will integrate the use of SimNewB for nursing education programs, specifically the neonatal resuscitation program.

SimNewB has realistic anatomy and can simulate a wide variety of patient conditions —from having a seizure to a moving, crying, vigorous newborn. The baby even has an umbilical cord that can be used for pulse assessment, cut and catheterized for IV access. Software allows the baby’s pulse and breathing to be controlled and changed by the nursing instructors.

During class, Mathews can control the baby’s health scenarios. Nurses then perform as if it were a real situation. The baby responds to the clinical interventions with spontaneous respirations, visible chest rise and fall, lung, heart and vocal sounds and motion. If the nurse has done everything right for that given scenario, the baby lets out a hearty cry.

SimNewB can be used for teaching various clinical skills such as normal and abnormal breath sounds, heart sounds, pulse assessment, intubation and advanced procedures such as IV placement.

“This is extremely helpful,” said Theresa Wilson, RN, nursing clinical instructor II. “Simulation allows for better clinical feedback in evaluating the nurses. Overall, this will enhance all nursing skills.”