Virtual baby saves lives

Doctors at Leicester’s Hospitals are leading the way in providing emergency treatment to the East Midland’s smallest patients, thanks to revolutionary neonatal simulators.

The Leicester Neonatal Simulation Programme has been up and running for three years and uses a tiny lifelike mannequin baby who exhibits real life features as part of staff training sessions.

Virtual baby saves lives
The high tech, computer controlled baby sized mannequin can move its arms and legs to simulate normal and abnormal movements such as fits. It makes a range of noises including happy gurgling, crying and noisy breathing to indicate respi ratory distress. The mannequin also has its own heartbeat and breathing sounds and will change colour to indicate poor oxygen levels. It can be attached to intensive care monitors and life support machines and Doctors and nurses who train on these mannequins are able to insert breathing tubes and lines in the same way as they would in a real baby.

Dr Joe Fawke, consultant neonatologist, said: “We have been able to invest in the latest state-of-the-art technology to enable us to train our staff to become expert in neonatal emergencies band intensive care. The mannequins react as though they are desperately poorly and this means that our staff can train to care for our smallest patients in a safe environment. The training helps staff to hone their communication and team working skills.”

The mannequin is set up in a real intensive care area and has all of the usual observation charts, medical notes, drips and monitoring leads that a baby would need. Each training scenario is painstakingly set up to make every aspect as realistic as possible.

Virtual baby saves lives
The team in Leicester, led by Dr Cusack and Dr Fawke, have also set up a simulation instructor course to train colleagues in hospitals from across the country. Money has been secured to buy mannequins for regional hospitals and clinicians are cur rent ly hard at work set t ing up an East Midlands Simulation Network. While plans have recently been announced for clinicians to travel to the East of England to train and advise staff using the simulators in hospitals there.

Dr Fawke said: “We are delighted with the training programme that we offer, it has gained national interest and observers from across the UK regularly come and view our simulation training.

“The work that we do gives staff extra experience and confidence when looking after our smallest and most vulnerable patients, it really does save lives.”

Image Credit: Dr Jonathan Cusack, consultant neonatologist, Dr Joe Fawke, consultant neonatologist, Claire Fuller, neonatal nurse