Babies on board: New baby mannequins delivered to The Simulation Center



Mannequin Web

Name-that-baby contest aims to humanize these lifelike infants used in nurses’ training.

Consider this a birth announcement of sorts. The Simulation Center at Fairbanks Hall received a very special delivery last week – four new baby mannequins – and it’s “expecting” two more.

Forget the image of plastic dolls that you might have seen used to practice CPR. These lifelike babies have an almost human skin texture and tone. They can cry, blink, breathe and cough. You can hear their heart beat, check their pulse, even put in an IV for medications or fluids. And unlike tiny humans, they are very forgiving of mistakes that new nurses or health team members might make.

The computer-controlled babies arrived all the way from Norway, and they’ll be used to train the next generation of IU Health, IU School of Nursing and IU School of Medicine healthcare providers.

Julie Poore, a registered nurse and manager of the Simulation Center, is as proud as any new mom to show off her new babies, who join a family of more than 15 older adult and child mannequins at the center. There is even a birthing mom mannequin in the birthing room.

“They’re quite amazing,” Poore said of the new babies. “You can feel their pulse, see their chest rise and fall, make them cry. Just about anything we want our new health professionals to learn, we can make it happen.”

Seizures, cyanosis, heart murmurs, even broken bones. It’s all covered in training modules at the center. Unlike previous mannequin models that have to be plugged in, these babies are wireless, which Poore hopes will encourage nurses to pick them up when appropriate to comfort them. The staff also has “recipes” for most any kind of baby bodily function to offer a more realistic experience.

While these babies were delivered in boxes and can be turned off and on, the affection for them is real. That’s why Poore and Sim Center coordinator Greg Hasty thought it would be fitting to give them proper names, and you can help.

Email your name suggestions for the six new babies to By early next month, the Sim Center team will announce the names via social media. Because the babies come with male and female “parts” that can be switched out, gender-neutral names would be appropriate.

Two of the newly delivered babies are newborns, and two are about a year old – their length and weight are developmentally appropriate. Four of the babies are light-skinned; the two late arrivals are dark-skinned.

Greg Hasty, coordinator of the Simulation Center, said the healthcare mannequin industry is incorporating more robotics and other technology to emulate real patient motion.

“We want them to treat the mannequins just like real patients. So the more realistic they look and feel and sound and act, the more real it is for the learner so they kind of forget that they’re in a fake environment and they start treating this baby like a patient,” he said.

“This baby can have a seizure,” he said, pointing to a diapered newborn mannequin in a warming bed. “If you’re a brand new nurse, a seizure on a baby can be really frightening. What better place to practice treating a realistic seizure on a baby than here, where we can make some mistakes and talk about them and learn and be ready for clinical practice?”

Poore, who previously taught at the School of Nursing, said despite their best efforts, there’s no guarantee that a new nurse or a nursing student gets exposed to every single thing they might encounter on the job.

“We can’t always guarantee that during their clinical rotations they’re going to hear clearly what a heart murmur sounds like, what wheezing sounds like. Here, we can guarantee that every nurse is going to walk out the door with an understanding of what that sounds like because we can make it happen with these mannequins,” she said.

 “We’ve yet to have a mannequin that can get out of bed and walk to us, but they can do pretty much everything else.”

– By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist
   Photos and video by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist