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Lifelike childbirth simulator helps nurses, hospital staff prepare for labor and deliveries

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Lifelike childbirth simulator helps nurses, hospital staff prepare for labor and deliveries

Ballad Health nurses stood ready to help Victoria through a difficult and complicated labor – for the second time that week.

Victoria isn’t attempting a world record. Her real name is Victoria® S2200, and she’s a high-tech childbirth simulator that helps healthcare workers prepare for labor and delivery events, including early labor complications, high-risk deliveries and postpartum emergencies.

Recently purchased for Ballad Health’s Northeast Tennessee Regional Perinatal Center, Victoria can be programmed for more than 45 childbirth scenarios, including breech births, cesarean sections, postpartum hemorrhages and more. She also delivers an equally realistic full-term baby that features programmable vitals for team members to evaluate and assess in the minutes after birth.

Rebecca Darnell and Sara Wright, clinical simulation specialists with the perinatal center, travel with Victoria to Ballad Health hospitals across the region, as well as nearby facilities in Kentucky and North Carolina. They work with clinical staffs to train for a range of scenarios, from natural childbirth to emergency surgery and maternal-fetal distress.

“This simulation-based education and team training will make a huge impact in maternal and infant outcomes by identifying gaps and improving processes, as well as increasing care providers’ skill and confidence in low-volume/high-risk situations,” said Darnell, who is also Northeast Tennessee Regional Perinatal Center’s team lead.

Darnell and Wright are particularly focused on bringing Victoria to rural hospitals and areas without full-time labor and delivery teams. Because their remote locations can make it difficult for on-call obstetricians and gynecologists to arrive in time, nursing team members are often responsible for safely delivering babies. In those cases, it’s also crucial for members of different departments, such as the blood bank, house supervisor and surgical units, to be involved in training and preparation.

“When complications or surprising circumstances occur during childbirth, the results can be tragic,” Darnell said. “The simulations and scenarios we run with Victoria give our nurses and clinical team members the opportunity to practice critical thinking, teamwork and practical skills, so they’re prepared for any real-life incidents.”

Additionally, team members involved in high-risk childbirth situations can facilitate transfers to other Ballad Health facilities, including the Regional Perinatal Center at Johnson City Medical Center. There, mothers and their babies can receive the highest level of care for complex and life-threatening conditions.

In addition to her pre-programmed scenarios, Victoria can also talk to team members, vocalizing symptoms and pains that can alert team members to potential complications. Her microphone is operated by either Darnell or Wright, who watch team members through a specially programmed tablet and respond to their actions. Meanwhile, the other clinical simulation specialist coaches and evaluates the trainees in the delivery room.
“During training, our team members really develop an understanding of how important it is to listen to the patient and understand what she experiences,” Darnell said. “Through these simulations, our caregivers learn how being alert and paying attention to potential warning signs and red flags can make a life or death difference.”

Victoria and her baby can be used with current Ballad Health medical equipment, including fetal monitors, IVs and blood pressure cuffs, so team members can practice in their normal work environments. The simulators also provide opportunities for clinical staff to place epidurals, provide life support and intervene in case of emergencies.

The childbirth simulator was purchased through a donation by Doug and Judy Lowrie, longtime Ballad Health Foundation supporters.

“The generosity of the Lowrie family makes it possible for us to build better healthcare for pregnant women and newborns in our region,” said Clay Rolston, executive director of Ballad Health Foundation. “The Lowrie family is helping Ballad Health serve our populations by improving infant mortality rates and strengthening the care we provide for women and their babies.”

The Lowries’ gift enables Ballad Health to make a significant impact on the overall health of this region. But, for the women and families who might need emergency or high-risk care, the effects of the donation and education are much more personal. 

“The training we do with Victoria and her baby has the potential to save lives,” Darnell said. “We’re incredibly grateful to Doug and Judy Lowrie for giving us the opportunity to provide evidence-based training that leads to better, safer deliveries.”

To learn more about Ballad Health Foundation, or to make a gift, please visit

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