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SimMom brings simulation closer to reality

Toronto, January 10, 2017

By Kelly O’Brien

An interdisciplinary team rehearses a breech birth using the new SimMom mannequin
An interdisciplinary team rehearses a breech birth using the new SimMom mannequin during an OB-GYN education day in the Allan Waters Family Simulation Centre. (Photo by Katie Cooper)

A team of six health-care professionals wheels a distressed mother into an operating room. Her baby is breech and the delivery is difficult. But when the team members hear the baby cry and confirms the mother is stable, relief washes over their faces.

In the midst of all the action, it’s easy to forget the mother is a mannequin.

SimMom is a high-fidelity, or highly realistic, computerized mannequin that simulates five different childbirth scenarios, including breech birth. It is one of the most realistic models available: it can talk, has a pulse and has flexible joints that allow it to move as a real woman would.

The mannequin was recently purchased by the Allan Waters Family Simulation Centre and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology to improve educational, quality improvement and other simulations. Dr. Michael Geary, chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Michael’s, said improving simulation was one of his main goals when he arrived two years ago.

“It’s possible to effectively recreate emergency scenarios using role play, but the value SimMom’s heightened reality adds is huge,” he said.

SimMom was purchased in combination with low-fidelity, or less realistic, pregnant mom and baby simulators. Dr. Geary said this combination allows for comprehensive skills development days, such as those hosted by the More OB (Managing Obstetric Risk Efficiently in OB) program.

Did you know?
SimMom is just one of the simulation mannequins used in the Simulation Centre. Others include SimMan, SimBaby, and the Harvey cardiopulmonary simulator mannequin.

Dr. Tatiana Freire-Lizama, a perinatologist and the More OB site co-lead at St Michael’s, said SimMom helps participants fully suspend disbelief to make the most of the development days.

“You can actually help her pick up her legs like you would a real patient, and she feels a lot like a real person,” Dr. Freire-Lizama said. “People buy in a lot more when things are highly realistic.”

But the mannequin itself is just one piece of the puzzle, she said.

“The tools are constantly improving, but creating an effective simulation is really about combining the features of the mannequin with the principles, information and scenarios we develop through the More OB program,” said Dr. Freire-Lizama.

Dr. Geary, Dr. Freire-Lizama and Sharon Adams, a registered nurse and More OB site co-lead, said that one of the most valuable things about SimMom is that the simulations create an opportunity for people from different professional areas to come together and improve team processes.

“There’s no point in having people who are individually great, but can’t work together,” said Dr. Geary. “Working together in these simulated situations improves morale, communication and team spirit.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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