High-tech mommies deliver real-life lessons at community colleges nursing center

Mannequin simulates birth at Bruning Center for Allied Health Education
by: Carole Archer, From left, Jean Anderson, a first-year nursing student, Katherine Conrad, playing a labor and delivery nurse and Doris Rink, playing the sister of the ‘patient,’ check on Noel, a mid-fidelity birthing mannequin and her ‘baby,’ Holly, on Thursday, Dec. 7. Noel has given birth to Holly six times in the past few weeks as part of the Mt. Hood Bruning Center for Allied Health Education training program.

As far as births go, this one was pretty straightforward. The mother moaned as the baby made her way out of the birth canal, and when the child emerged, a pair of skilled hands caught her, suctioned her mouth and nose and placed the baby on her mother's belly for warmth.

'Do you want to try to nurse?' Katherine Conrad, the labor and delivery nurse, asked the mother. 'Nursing is good for her.'

As the placenta is delivered, Jean Anderson, the baby's nurse, pulled a blanket over the baby.

In the background, a bevy of nurses, nursing students and nursing instructors stood watching, nodding at the realism of the scene.

This is what modern-day medical instruction looks like.

Instead of watching a real woman give birth, and waiting for complications to arise so they can learn from them, these students and practitioners are learning from high-tech mannequins.

The mother in this exercise is named Noel.

She is what's known as a mid-fidelity mannequin. She can give birth, undergo a caesarean section and moan in pain.

Noel, and mannequins like her, are the new generation of teaching tools at places like the Mt. Hood Community College's Bruning Center for Allied Health Education, where this particular birth took place on Thursday, Dec. 7, in front of a crowd of media cameras and nursing instructors.

'We are using a lot more simulation in this field,' says Vonnie Driggers, a faculty member at Oregon Health Science University's nursing program. 'It's safer than practicing in real life situations, where you can't predict what will come up.'

With simulation mannequins, instructors can write their own complications into the scenario. From a computerized station located away from students' eyes, teachers can make a mannequin spike a fever, vomit or moan in pain.

These simulation 'dummies' can react to a nursing student's remedies, and according to the teacher's pre-written scenario, can make a full recovery or have severe complications.

Driggers says some medical professionals are even turning to these high-tech mannequins to teach experienced doctors and nurses about new technologies or to brush up on emergency situations.

'We've even used them for end-of-life simulations,' Driggers says.

The mannequins come in different levels of 'high tech' and range from a few thousand dollars (Noel, the Bruning Center's birthing simulator cost about $7,000) to more than $25,000.

The Bruning Center has two high-fidelity simulators, one mid-fidelity model (Noel) and one low-fidelity simulator (think CPR dummies).

Janie Griffin, director of Mt. Hood's nursing program, says the simulators help build students' confidence in their newly learned medical skills.

'The simulators allow our students to practice in an environment that is much like at a hospital,' Griffin says. 'They're in a safe environment where they can make a mistake and learn from it.'

Mt. Hood Community College's nursing program is a three-year program, which includes one year of general studies.

Currently, there are 120 students enrolled in the nursing program.

The college's Bruning Center for Allied Health Education is at 1484 N.W. Civic Drive, in the Gresham Station development.

For more information on MHCC's nursing program or any of the other allied Health programs offered at the college, visit www.mhcc.edu.