The role of simulation training in neonatal care
Providing the best care to critically ill infants, whether they are born preterm or at term, is a daily challenge for medical teams, no matter how experienced they already are. Unforeseen complications or sudden developments can arise quickly and may require rapid action. In these instances, the entire care team may need to provide a coordinated response to ensure that the tiny patient continues to survive and thrive. These are often extremely complex and time-sensitive situations, and the better trained the team handling the patient is, the higher the chances of good outcomes are. Yet, in the daily hospital settings, doctors and nurses, particularly those at the beginning of their careers, have only few opportunities to actually practice how to handle crisis situations.
Interdisciplinary simulation training is quickly proving to be an answer to this problem. The approach describes the practicing of critical care situations and medical emergencies with the help of a highly realistic patient simulators and “real” hospital equipment. It assumes that a highly realistic training setting encourages participants to deeply engage with the practice matter, better retain what they learned, and ultimately apply their new skills with confidence in real-life situations.
What is more, in these simulation trainings, the entire care team trains together and practices measurements and procedures with one another in a safe setting, thus also strengthening team spirit, cohesion, and efficiency. When it comes to maternal and newborn care, this multidisciplinary approach brings together the care and medical staff from obstetrics, gynecology, neonatology, and pediatrics as well as midwives and anesthetists. Over time, simulation training has the potential to create specialist teams which perform care procedures together to successfully treat patients in high-risk situations.
Dr. Jens-Christian Schwindt, a neonatologist from Austria driven by his desire to improve the care for preterm and newborn infants, founded SIMCharacters in 2012. Together with a diverse team of experts, he has developed some of the most realistic infant simulators available. Paul, a patient simulator the size of a preterm infant born after the 27th week of gestation and weighing only 1,090 grams, has been available since 2021. In January this year, his “sister” Emily was unveiled, a term-born girl weighing 3,400 grams. Just like Paul, Emily has highly realistic internal and external anatomy, allowing healthcare professionals to train for crisis scenarios like resuscitation, respiratory distress syndrome or seizures. As this example shows, simulation training is one way to make neonatal care better and safer. Congratulations to Dr. Schwindt and his team!
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