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Charity-funded training manikin helps improve safety and care of premature babies

A state-of-the-art training manikin is helping to improve the care and safety of premature babies at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM).

Staff from across the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Royal Stoke University Hospital are now receiving training sessions with the Lifecast Micro Preemie, nicknamed ‘Sim Baby’.

Weighing just one pound, Sim Baby was funded by a grant from UHNM Charity and has been designed to accurately anatomically replicate a baby of 22 to 23 weeks gestation.

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals on NICU now have the opportunity to practice inserting breathing tubes, chest drains, belly lines and other procedures in a controlled training environment.

Dr Narasimha Rao, Consultant Neonatologist at UHNM said: “As a Level Three Neonatal Unit, only the highest levels of care will do and we want to assure parents that our professionals are trained to the uppermost standards, and only equipment like this can help with that.”

“There is zero room for error with premature babies of this size. You have to be absolutely precise first time when carrying out procedures, and trial and error on a real-life baby is not the solution we want. Unfortunately problems with the very most premature babies are not uncommon, but the realism of Sim Baby gives our staff a better advantage of dealing with any situations that may arise.”

Sim Baby was developed and produced by Lifecast Body Simulation at the world-renowned Elstree Film Studios in London. The company employs special effects experts who have worked on such films as X Men, Casino Royale and Rambo.   

Parents Jane Hagon and Michael Shannon from Rugeley, whose daughter Eloise is currently receiving care on NICU after being born nine weeks early by emergency caesarean section weighing just under three pounds, were impressed by Sim Baby.

Jane said: “You know students and other healthcare professionals need to practice and learn, but you wouldn’t want the first time they carried something out to be on your baby. It can be daunting as a parent seeing the tubes and wires going into such small babies, but knowing NICU have Sim Baby is fantastic and very reassuring. Watching the care given to Eloise you see how precise everybody has to be, but the confidence of the doctors and nurses handling her has passed onto me and Michael.”

“The care here has been fantastic, on another level, and Eloise is doing well. I can’t thank everybody enough- not just with her, but with us as a family. We’ve had the so much support throughout our stay since July, the staff come straight over to you, we’ve been involved in her care the whole way through, and been listened to as well which is a big thing.”

Regular training sessions on Sim Baby with all staff on NICU have been set up, with Titilayo Ogunlana, senior post graduate doctor, one of the first to take part.

She said: “Fortunately we don’t encounter many babies this size, but you don’t want your first time to be on a real baby. The feel of Sim Baby is different from any other manikin I’ve trained on, it almost perfectly simulates a real-life baby. This changes the game. When we had our induction on NICU and I saw Sim Baby I thought, yes, this is what training should be like, and we want parents to be aware equipment like this and this culture of learning and improvement exists here at UHNM.”  

Dr Diane Adamson, Divisional Medical Director for Women’s, Children’s and Clinical Support Services at UHNM added: “We were thrilled to take delivery of Sim Baby. It’s been put into use immediately and is priceless to know our team can gain the skills to keep our tiniest babies as safe as possible. A huge thank you to UHNM Charity and its supporters for making this possible.”

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