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Sanford Simulated Patient

By Kelli Grant
Published: November 24, 2009, 6:11 PM

Sanford Health has a new patient unlike any they've had before.

That's because this one isn't real; it's a simulated patient. It may be even more effective than the real thing at helping doctors and nurses improve patient care.

When a doctor or a nurse finishes their degree, the learning doesn't stop. Continuing education is critical, especially when you're working with very small babies.

Babies born too early, often called Neonates, can present a number of problems and each time one is treated, it can be learning experience for their physician and nurse.

But this premature baby is offering some help.

"He's pretty physiologically as real as you can get without using a real neonate," Clinical Simulation Supervisor Heath Casper said.

He's called a SimNewB and his every action is controlled through a computer.

"Simulation is really becoming the way of learning and the way of teaching and they can actually get hands-on experience with SimNewB without having to put a patient at risk," Casper said.

He has lungs and can make heart sounds. Physicians can even put a line down his umbilical chord to give blood or fluids.

He cries, turns blue when his oxygen levels are too low and a nurse can even start an IV in his tiny arm.

"Things are changing so frequently that it's great to have a piece of technology like this to keep up to date on some of those new technologies that we're able to use on these kiddos," Casper said.

And putting a breathing tube in this simulator to help him breathe is a big step up from what doctors and nurses practiced on before.

"They had small dolls that they used that did not physiologically respond like this one. And then a lot of it was kind of learning on the job experience through their clinical experience, with their clinical instructors. But never having the chance to practice hands-on before actually getting with that patient," Casper said.

There's hope for more of these kinds of practice tools in the future.

"There is a simulator called a Noel and she actually births a baby so that would be an interesting one for us to have. There's only one in the market right now and she actually goes through the whole delivery process," Casper said.

Helping doctors and nurses deliver the care real patients need.

The SimNewB was purchased by the Sanford Health Foundation for $29,000.

© 2009 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.