“Just palpating the abdomen,” a nursing student said to her pregnant patient. Not a human patient -- a mannequin.

Knight nurses now have a new friend to help prepare them for real-life birthing scenarios. They call her “SimMom.” She’s the newest addition to UCF College of Nursing's growing group of simulated patients.

The University of Central Florida is one of the few schools offering mannequin simulations for student practice.

"So, this is SimMom, a Laerdal product that actually births the baby, but also we can see contractions on the monitors and really have that high-tech real scenario," said College of Nursing Assistant Professor Desiree Diaz.

SimMom is a state-of-the-art life-sized birthing simulator with accurate anatomy and functionality used to train healthcare workers and students on delivering babies. The mannequin blinks, breathes, screams in pain and even bleeds. And of course, gives birth to a crying baby – another tiny lifelike mannequin.

Nursing student Camerin Welsh is appreciative of the lifelike scenario he gets to be thrown into during simulation sessions.

"It's a big hunk of plastic with a lot of pieces and it's basically used to help us,” Welsh said. “If we were practicing, let's just say, on a plain mannequin, you know it wouldn't be a real-life scenario, so this gives us a better representation of what it would actually be like."

Not only is a simulation session realistic, it’s never exactly the same for each student who uses it.

"We can change her appearance, we can change her name, we can change whether she's speaking English or maybe today she's a Spanish-speaking client,” said Mindi Anderson, simulation program director. “And so the students have to learn how to communicate with different clients of different cultures."

The students not only learn the motions and maneuvers of the delivery process. They are also taught to calm and encourage their patient, which isn’t too hard when you have a computerized mannequin that actually talks back. SimMom communicates her feelings and answers every question asked of her.

"It's really intimidating because someone's kind of controlling the mannequin, so it does feel like a real person, and we work together and it helps us kind of decide, ‘OK what do we want to do first?’ And we like plan it and we see what we could have done differently at the end,” said UCF nursing student Sydney MacMillan.

During a post birth simulation session, two students were given the task to take care of a mom diagnosed with severe preeclampsia. Today’s patient, Olivia Jones. A 23-year-old African-American woman at 36 weeks of gestation.

Anderson believes by giving students different scenarios, no matter how rare of a case, will better prepare them for life in this profession.

"We can give them different kinds of scenarios that they might not see, but are very important that they recognize when they see it,” Anderson said. “So today, right now she's already had her baby and now the students have to take care of her after the baby has been born."

Danielle Griffith, a junior nursing student, expressed how lucky she feels being at a university that’s expanding their use of technology to give her hands-on experience. Ultimately preparing her for a real career. 

"I definitely feel lucky that we have all these resources to help us,” Griffith said.

And with nursing professors, having access to simulate what students would be exposed to in a hospital room setting, Diaz thinks is a way for students to gain the skill and experience needed to train future nurses.

"It’s an ability for us to hone not just our communication skills, but also things we might not encounter, whether it be transgender patients, cultural patients we're not used to, patients who speak a different language,” Diaz said. “How do you really care for somebody with minimal technology in a hospital setting? That's what we like to simulate here."

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