Coming close: Computer-controlled mannequin simulates birth

HANCOCK – She won’t get up and walk around, but the new neonatal simulator mannequin, called Noelle, will tell Finlandia University nursing students if she’s having some difficulties while giving simulated birth.

Fredi de Yampert, Finlandia vice president for academic affairs and nursing department chair, said Noelle gives students a degree of realism just short of what they would experience with a real woman.

“It’s a wonderful learning tool for the students,” she said.

De Yampert said the Noelle simulator system, including mannequins, computer and software, cost $35,000, and the purchase of more simulators is planned.

“The goal is to have an entire simulated family,” she said.

Finlandia is moving its College of Health Sciences to the former Hancock Middle School building, and de Yampert said the intent is to have a lab dedicated to a simulation family.

Suzanne Miron, Finlandia assistant professor of nursing, said although Finlandia’s nursing students do have clinical classes involving real pregnant women, the simulator can present students with situations involving distress, which may not happen with a real woman in a clinical setting.

“In situations, perhaps, where the new-born baby needs some resuscitation, with breathing or their heart pumping, the student isn’t going to participate, although they can observe,” she said. “In a simulation lab, they’re forced to think more critically.”

The simulator is computer programmed, Miron said, and it can present students with those emergency situations.

“The students get to manage that in the simulation lab,” she said.

Miron said Noelle can present such problems as increased respiration, high blood pressure and increased heart rate. It can even hemorrhage.

“With the mannequins (students) get to manage that, and learn how to collaborate as a team,” she said.

The Noelle simulator has some functions, such as breathing and heart rate. Blood can be drawn from an arm. It can even vocalize about some problems it may be having.

The simulator package also has two baby simulators. One is used for the birth procedure, and Miron said one, called Hal, is used for examinations, and it can receive medications through its umbilical cord.

Miron said the university received the simulator package in August, and the students have been impressed with it.

“Initially, they’re surprised how much Noelle can do,” she said. “I think the favorite was the birthing.”

De Yampert said students know they will be faced with certain emergency situations with the simulator, but the software allows instructors to program in some surprise situations, which helps develop critical thinking in the students.

During the simulation classes, de Yampert said students are video recorded, and those recordings are used to help with instruction.

“The students really need to be independent thinkers,” she said.