Infant simulator makes its first appearance at the University of California Davis Medical Center

Davis 18 July 2005As part of its commitment to enhancing medical education and emergency training throughout the region, the University of California (UC) Davis Medical Center is now the proud parent of a highly realistic infant simulator. The virtual "baby", with many physical characteristics of a 3- to 6-month old, is among the first simulators of its size in California. It offers computerized simulations for paediatric illnesses and emergencies, which test the skills of a variety of patient-care providers, from physicians and medical students to nurses and paramedics.

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The infant simulator is much more than just a fancy, 28-inch-long doll. It can breathe, blink, bleed and exhibit a variety of other human characteristics. Powered by a little belly full of computer parts, this infant features heart sounds, a pulse, reactions to medical treatment and drugs, and even the ability to throw a wailing fit, wet a diaper, and sneeze or drool.

"Our new baby is the health care equivalent of a flight simulator for pilots", stated Judith Hwang, associate professor of anaesthesiology and pain medicine and one of the physician trainers in the UC Davis Center for Virtual Care. "This is a tool that gives our medical staff and other participants the most realistic training possible in paediatric care and emergencies."

Using a computer, the simulator can be programmed to generate a wide variety of responses to paediatric problems and medical interventions. For example, the baby has an airway that can swell shut from an allergic reaction, and a head that can bulge from the increase in intracranial pressure that can occur after a fall.

The new $50.000 simulator joins three other high fidelity mannequins in the medical centre's innovative virtual care programme. The units, which now range in size from infant to adult, provide trainees with an impressive variety of trauma scenarios and other medical situations.

Simulation training is meant to supplement, not replace, traditional medical training. Studies have shown that life-like simulation tools can improve patient outcomes by providing the ideal setting for physicians, nurses and medical teams to practise and perfect their medical skills in a risk-free environment.

The infant simulator, known by its product name "BabySIM", is manufactured by the Florida-based company METI. Acquisition of the unit was made possible by funding from the Children's Miracle Network, UC Davis School of Medicine and local contributors.

UC Davis Center for Virtual Care incorporates a variety of sophisticated simulation training tools to create a virtual hospital environment for practising medical procedures. The centre can mimic a single intensive care unit or replicate the flow of patients through the hospital, from the scene of an accident and medical transport to treatment in the emergency room, operating room or intensive care unit. The facility also provides hands-on training in the use of the medical centre's surgical robot, which is one of the new, minimally invasive technologies now being used and developed at the UC Davis School of Medicine.


Leslie Versweyveld

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