When her care team pronounced "Kelly Brady" out of danger from a preeclamptic episode at 1:40 p.m. on Monday, a crowd of bystanders cheered. The crowd, gathered in the nursing simulation lab at the Williamsburg campus of Thomas Nelson Community College was there to celebrate the gift of the $50,000 high-fidelity mannequin from Sentara Healthcare to the college's nursing program. SimMom, as she's known, is the program's first interactive obstetrical mannequin.
For the 15-minute demonstration, simulation lab supervisor, Jean Midyette, programmed the soft-to-the-touch rubbery mannequin to react to treatment for HELLP syndrome, a liver condition related to preeclampsia. The "patient" was described as a 26-week pregnant 35-year-old Caucasian female. Preeclampsia, characterized by dangerously high blood pressure, can develop rapidly in pregnancy, explained Theresa Farley, a student who took the role of the primary nurse. "It comes on suddenly and can cause seizures," she added. "Typically the patient would have been sent to the hospital or emergency room by her doctor." In the role-playing exercise, a handful of TNCC nursing students acted as the treatment team while one played the patient's mother. Midyette, the instructor, stayed to one side, scanning the patient's progress on a monitor.
SimMom, made by Laerdal, provides several lifelike features. She has a pulse, her eyes blink and react to light, she can moan and groan to indicate pain, she has lung, heart and bowel sounds — and she also comes with a baby, which can be "delivered" either by Caesarean section or vaginally. The mannequin has a special spot in her thigh to simulate where an intramuscular shot can be administered and her cervix mimics the changes of pregnancy and childbirth. And she can talk. "She's much quieter than most laboring moms would be," said Farley, who describes the model as very realistic. "It's wonderful. I like her."
During the demonstration, in which student nurses were working to stabilize the mother in order to extend the pregnancy, one administered an injection, another inserted a catheter and another applied an oxygen mask. "She was having a response to everything we were doing — the meds we were pushing, the oxygen, the turning on her side," Farley said.
The use of mannequins is particularly important in exposing students to experiences they might not have in their clinical rotation, said Midyette. "They might not encounter high-risk patients with preeclampsia or post-partum hemorrhage." She cited federal statistics that the rate of severe complications in pregnancy and childbirth has doubled in the past 10 years and that there are 15 pregnancy-related deaths for every 100,000 women. She emphasized the importance of the simulation technology in allowing students to practice and to evaluate a patient after nursing intervention, which gives them good skills. "It really does prepare students for real-life scenarios. We're training a workforce-ready RN," she said.
The lab has two other high-fidelity mannequins, a man and a newborn, and the 60 nursing students at TNCC's Williamsburg campus spend as much as 20 percent of their total clinical time working with them and several other mannequins, including one with geriatric features. "If someone does something wrong, you can set it to go down a bad path. It teaches you to learn on your feet. It increases their confidence," said Karen Lynch, a simulation educator for Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center.
"We're grateful to Sentara for partnering with us. We like the opportunity to prepare students for what they will see. It makes it possible to practice safely," said Hannah Anderson-Hughes, nursing program coordinator at TNCC.
The college's Hampton campus also has a nursing program with a simulation lab. The 2-year associate degree RN programs are staggered in their start dates, fall and January, in order to allow flexibility for students, said John T. Dever, college president.
See a video of the students working with SimMom at dailypress.com.