DeKALB – There’s a baby at Kishwaukee Community Hospital that’s unlike any other.
The baby can breathe, sweat, cry and urinate. However, the baby is powered by electricity and feels rather rubbery. The baby simulator is among the three humanoid machines owned and operated by KishHealth System to improve the medical skills of its staff, from doctors to housekeepers.
The hospital’s simulation lab celebrated its first anniversary Sunday. Hospital staff has used the adolescent and adult simulators, along with the baby simulator that was added in April, for 120 lab practices.
Everything from pharmacy to nursing to respiratory procedures are practiced on the simulators. Hospital officials use the simulators to prepare for the worst-case scenario in medical emergencies and training their staff.
DurRay Sanchez-Torres, manager of the simulation lab, likened the experience to football players doing drills before a game. The lab is all about helping the staff be proactive with medical emergencies.
The baby, which can be a boy or a girl, doesn’t yet have a name, but staff members can choose among 90 names for a naming contest that ends this month, Sanchez-Torres said. The older simulators are named Willy and May.
In one simulation, the medical team had to go through its own drills to help the baby simulator based on a real-life situation. A baby was found in a church by a police officer and had to be put into a mechanical ventilator and given respiratory therapy. The same scenario was used on the baby simulator, where the doctors had to insert a tube down its throat, a procedure known as intubation.
During an exercises, the team, which could be doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists, works as its colleagues monitor it behind a two-way window with computers reading life signals from the simulators.
“Here’s the baby, show us what you’re going to do,” Sanchez-Torres said. “It’s the hands-on experience.“
The simulation lab is not for evaluating people’s performance, however.
Sanchez-Torres said there are no failures in the lab, only opportunities for growth. The lab is a safe environment, and provides users an opportunity to think about their actions before applying them in real life.
“Simulation is wonderful and great but if we don’t do any reflective thinking then it sort of defeats the purpose,” Sanchez-Torres said.
Glenn Podzimek, cardiopulmonary manager for Valley West Community Hospital, said the scenarios in the simulation lab are realistic. Nobody knows what they’re walking into when the lab sessions begin.
The medical teams have to act fast and the simulators are highly sensitive to the work being done on them.
“Physiologically, the simulators respond to how the caregivers react,” Podzimek said.
The simulators are unrealistic in some crucial ways, though. For example, the baby simulator’s skin tone doesn’t change to reflect physical problems that can be apparent or arise during emergency procedures.
The lab is a point of pride for the KishHealth system.
“For a hospital of this size,” Podzimek said, “it rivals major academic centers.”