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Robot Baby Offers Lessons For ER Personnel

Aired 6/21/12 on KPBS News.

A 6-month-old baby is rushed to the emergency room. It’s having trouble breathing and it’s skin is starting to turn blue.

A 6-month-old baby is rushed to the emergency room. It’s having trouble breathing; it’s skin is turning blue. Nurses and doctors frantically clear its airways. Luckily, the baby is a robot.

Robotic baby used to train nurses and doctors.
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Above: Robotic baby used to train nurses and doctors.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Rady Children’s Hospital recently purchased a SimBaby. It is a life-like robotic child used to help train doctors, nurses and therapists.

The $40,000 doll can simulate a variety of medical emergencies, like swelling of the airways, abnormal heartbeats and shallow breathing. Professionals can practice basic to advanced procedures to better prepare for real-life situations.

Dr. Charles Sauer, the director of simulation at Rady, appreciates the benefits of having such advanced technology.

“Having a realistic simulator gives us the opportunity to be ready to have an emergency situation at any time,” he said. “So if we are prepared with the simulator, then we are prepared for when it really happens in real life.”

Rady is one of the first in the nation to own one of these technologically advanced dolls, thanks to a donation from its Fuerte Hills Unit.

The SimBaby transforms the way training is done. When Sauer was trained, he said, the manikin doll he used “did not do anything” and that “it was just not very realistic.” Now, the trainees are able to receive more valuable feedback.

“It’s as real as can be. The doll breathes. The doll has a heart rate, we have to listen to the heart rate,” Sauer said. “We have to put the tubes and IVs where they have to go otherwise they’re not going to work.”

Monitors record the simulations so trainees can review decisions they made and their effects.

The robotic child will be taken to other San Diego hospitals. Sauer believes this is important so babies can receive “excellent care from the moment they are born.”

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