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Yarrow Fox, a second-year midwifery student at UBC, demonstrates a simulated birth using Noelle and baby - photo by Martin Dee
Yarrow Fox, a second-year midwifery student at UBC, demonstrates a simulated birth using Noelle and baby - photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 9 | Sep. 4, 2008

Going into Robot Labour

By Catherine Loiacono

Baby Sophie has been born more than once and her mother, Noelle, can give birth in as little as four minutes. Noelle and baby are an interactive birthing simulator team and the newest teaching addition to UBC’s Division of Midwifery.

A life-sized interactive computerized female mannequin, Noelle comes with a birthing baby and a larger simulation newborn for neonatal resuscitation. Together they provide students from midwifery, nursing and medicine with an almost life-like labour experience. Students get to practice caring for the mother and newborn before, during and after the birth.

“One of the main concerns of students working in the area of maternity care is their ability to provide safe care,” says midwifery instructor Kim Campbell. “The health care provider is working with two patients [the mother and the baby] and the process may take unpredictable turns. The simulator allows students to engage in normal and life-and-death situations over and over without consequence.”

Campbell, who spearheaded efforts to purchase the $24 000 Noelle, believes UBC is one of the first Canadian universities to adopt a birthing simulator. “We have seen an increased interest in using high-fidelity birthing simulators and interprofessional education over the past year,” says Campbell.

One click on a menu screen allows an instructor to program for cervix dilation, a normal birth or alternatively, a variety of complications from a breech birth to vacuum delivery or C-Section. Instructors can also change delivery speed, blood pressure and heart and breathing rate of both Noelle and Sophie. Students can listen for multiple maternal, fetal and neonatal heart sounds, administer medication through the umbilicus, arm, or leg and even converse with Noelle – an assistant in another room speaks into a microphone and responds and reacts to a situation.

Both simulators can also have IV started. Breathing tubes can be inserted into their mouths. Fake blood can be used to mimic a postpartum hemorhage and retained placenta can be simulated.

Noelle gives birth to a plastic articulating baby, but after the birth the team can switch to a sophisticated larger newborn that can change colours, from normal pink to the concerning blue of oxygen deficiency. Sophie’s vital signs will also flash when she is hooked up to monitors.

“Feedback from students is quite positive,” says Campbell. “The interprofessional simulation workshops demonstrate that students increase their confidence in working with obstetrical care issues and have an enhanced appreciation for both simulation and interprofessional learning.”

The Midwifery Education Program at UBC is a four year program designed to educate these primary maternity care providers for BC’s health care system. Sixty per cent of the program involves education in the direct realm of practice. Over the course of their clinical exposure, midwifery students will spend 58 weeks with midwife instructors and 12 weeks with physician and other health professional instructors.

The program received $100 000 in funding from the BC Academic Health Council’s Practice Education Innovation Fund to develop a maternity care simulation laboratory. The purpose of the laboratory is to provide maternity care scenarios and skill development so students begin their clinical placements better prepared to engage in clinical practice.

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Last reviewed 05-Sep-2008

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