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Hospital Celebrates the First Noelle 

Simulator helps ensure patient safety

NoelleNoelle is no ordinary woman. She's a life-sized replica of a woman in full-term pregnancy, complete with full belly and child. To be more specific, she is a computerized obstetric robot. She can "act out" just about any scenario that could happen during labor and delivery, giving caregivers the chance to practice their skills in real time.

Noelle has blonde hair, lifelike skin, a heartbeat and a voice. Staff can program her to simulate common obstetrical challenges, such as hemorrhaging, breech birth or emergency c-section.

"She looks like a CPR mannequin but she is much more high-tech," said Kathy Brand, RN, OB Nurse Manager at St. Francis Hospital & Health Services. "There is a machine inside that you can hook the baby up to."

Noelle gives birth to baby Hal, another computerized simulator. Actually two baby Hals are used during a simulation. One is used for the delivery and the other is used for post-delivery situations. The second baby Hal can be programmed for various emergency scenarios and has the ability to turn blue and go into a seizure. Hal's tiny ribcage expands and contracts with his breathing. His arms and legs move.

St. Francis is the first hospital in the region to feature the birthing Noelle and baby Hal, considered the best of their kind for interactive medical professional training. The computerized mannequins have pulses, breathe, move, speak and cry, and are connected to the same heart, blood pressure and fetal monitoring devices used in hospitals. She was created by the Florida-based Gaumard Scientific Company and was purchased with proceeds from the 2009 St. Francis Gala and 2009 Employee Appeal.

Medical personnel use Noelle to measure how efficiently and effectively they work together during deliveries, with the goal of improving communication and teamwork.

"The simulations with Noelle are to make sure people have a place to practice providing care," said Dr. Scott Holman, DO, VP of Medical Affairs and obstetrician. "Our goals are effective communication, practice and patient safety."

During a simulation, doctors and nurses work on Noelle in a delivery room setting. Different scenarios are pre-programmed and Noelle's actions are controlled by a computer. Although the simulation is pre-programmed, it can be changed at any time during the drill. Once baby Hal is born, another program may be used to run scenarios on the baby, and the team must then work together on two "patients." Hospital staff members are instructed to speak directly to Noelle to make the simulation as realistic as possible.

"Noelle will help us to practice our skills, so we will be better prepared to deal with any situation," said Brand. "She can also be connected to our fetal monitor and programmed in common and uncommon emergencies. With the feedback provided through the computer, staff will be able to self-evaluate and critique their actions as a means to foster learning."

Noelle is due to give birth to baby Hal for the first time at St. Francis in a simulated delivery scheduled for January, once trainers are taught how to use the system. According to Brand, future goals include partnering with school of nursing RN and LPN programs for student training and to program Noelle to improve patient satisfaction with other departments such as Nutritional Services and Housekeeping. "It's so amazing," Brand said. "The possibilities for it are just almost endless."

Brand also believes that one day, tools like Noelle will be less of a luxury and more a necessity. "She's going to take education to a whole different level," she said.

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