Monday Medical: Birth simulator |

Monday Medical: Birth simulator

Christine McKelvie/For the Steamboat Today

When the delivery of a newborn baby goes smoothly, there is no happier spot on earth than the Family Birth Place at Yampa Valley Medical Center. Yet each mother’s labor and delivery is unique, and hospital care teams must anticipate and be ready to respond to a variety of potential complications.

To enhance the well-being and safety of future patients, health care professionals at YVMC are about to be introduced to some remarkable new training technology.

Enter “Victoria,” a life-like computerized mannequin that can be programmed to re-create dozens of real-life birthing scenarios. The pregnant Victoria is amazingly life-like, as is the newborn baby that emerges from her womb.

Victoria’s new home is the hospital’s Simulation Lab, established in 2012 thanks to a generous donation from a grateful patient through the HBB Foundation of Chicago. For almost three years, the Sim Lab has done hundreds of training sessions using the original adult and pediatric mannequins.

These practice patients are programmed to provide physical and auditory symptoms, such as sweating, convulsing, moaning, crying, bleeding and even turning blue. They respond to medications and treatments as a real person would.

Victoria can be programmed to give birth just 30 seconds after arriving at the hospital. She can shout out, “I feel like I’m going to faint!” She also can have a simulated heart attack.

“We can practice time and time again on the mannequins without touching a patient,” YVMC Staff Development Coordinator Debby Harris said. “When we mimic a scenario, nurses get to learn about it in a very realistic setting. This training helps them to develop critical-thinking skills and feel really confident if they ever encounter a similar medical emergency.”

When Harris says “realistic,” she means it. Victoria lies on a labor/delivery bed just like the ones in the Family Birth Place. Large screens show her heart rate and blood pressure. When a fetal heart monitor is placed across Victoria’s abdomen, the baby’s heartbeat scrolls across the screen.

Suddenly something goes wrong. The baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal. Two nurses reposition Victoria’s legs while a physician presses on the suprapubic bone to open the pelvis and dislodge the baby’s shoulder. The delivery proceeds and a baby emerges. But there are problems.

Victoria begins to hemorrhage, and the baby is in distress. The care team rushes to stop the bleeding and begin an intravenous transfusion on the mother. Another nurse carefully assesses the newborn. Breathing assistance or even resuscitation may be needed.

“All of this activity takes place in real time, and these are real-life actions,” Harris said. “Many of our scenarios simulate the worst thing that can happen, and our care teams learn what they would do.”

Family Birth Place nurse Susan Engle is one of seven YVMC nurses who serve as facilitators for the Sim Lab. The others are Sarah Kerrigan, Kristin Kotkas, Julie McFadden, Katie Noble, Priscilla Schultz and Kristin Solawetz. It is their job to program the mannequins and lead the training sessions for nurses, nurse aides, physicians, hospital clinical staff, student nurses and emergency medical services students.

Engle and Harris are especially excited about the addition of Victoria and her three newborns. YVMC and the Denver School of Nursing are the only two locations in Colorado to have this latest set of mannequins.

“We will be training hospital-wide,” Engle said. “We never know when a mother in labor might come to the Emergency Department in the middle of the night or there might be a difficult Cesarean section in the operating room.”

The Family Birth Place team is experienced in high-risk deliveries. But sometimes they call other hospital departments for added help. After completing the new Simulation Lab sessions, physicians and nurses from any specialty area will be better prepared to answer the call.

Christine McKelvie is a writer/editor for Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.