It appears to be a typical scene in one of our labor-and-delivery suites. The mother in labor is asking for pain relief as the medical team checks monitors and prepares for the imminent arrival of a baby. But, wait. That’s not a real patient. It’s Noelle™, The Pregnant Robot, a computerized birthing simulator!
Noelle is just one example of how technology is helping staff at Maimonides Medical Center improve clinical performance and patient care in small and large ways. “We're the busiest OB department in New York State,” says Howard Minkoff, MD, Chair of Obstetrics & Gynecology, "so it’s essential that we use technology to our advantage in order to offer the best care possible.”
The birthing simulator can be programmed to replicate numerous scenarios ranging from a normal vaginal birth to a Cesarean section or breech birth. Noelle can speak pre-programmed phrases, can appear to have a heart rate, and can even “bleed.” Her “baby” can change colors from a healthy pink to an oxygen-deprived blue, all in order to better train medical students and physicians on complex childbirth scenarios.
“We use the simulator for many levels of training,” explains Nelli Fischer, MD, a member of the Maternal Fetal Medicine faculty who coordinates this training program. “Medical students can learn how to perform a normal delivery, and residents can focus on more complex situations. Noelle can be used to train for emergency situations, such as a mother with eclampsia (seizures). It offers a realistic environment for learning both the technical and the communication skills necessary in such situations.”
The robot also can be used in the labor-and-delivery area to simulate an emergency. “These types of drills help us identify systems issues,” says Dr. Fischer. “For example, how long did it take for a monitor to activate? How quickly did the team gather? It’s a powerful tool that helps us improve the level of services we offer.”
Currently, about 40 simulation exercises are held each year, primarily for residents. Obstetrics & Gynecology plans to expand this training to all staff, including nurses, midwives, attending physicians and physician assistants. Simulators also are in use in the Department of Medicine for bronchoscopy and upper endoscopy training.