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SimMom prepares nursing students for the real thing

TCC STEM Promise Students

When Amelia Sung gave birth, Tidewater Community College nursing students Kelli Kendall and Maggie Lane were right by her side for every contraction, welcoming her baby girl into the world just before 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.

“I got goosebumps,” Kendall said.

Sung isn’t real, she is SimMom, an advanced full body birthing simulator with accurate anatomy and functionality used by TCC nursing faculty to facilitate obstetric training. Given the groans, SimMom makes during labor, the questions she asks of the nurses and the professional way the students tend to her needs, it’s easy to forget it’s a simulation inside the Beazley School of Nursing on the Portsmouth Campus.

It’s also easy to get goosebumps during delivery when her “baby” unleashes what sounds like a newborn cry.

In an adjoining room, TCC interim nursing dean Rita Bouchard is operating the controls that allow the nursing students to put their critical thinking skills to the test. When the student nurses complete their clinical training, they are better prepared to handle real patients.

“Simulation experiences help to enrich what you see when you’re working in a clinical setting,” Bouchard said.

SimMom can be diabetic, suffer a seizure, have complications during delivery and opt for an epidural or not.

Everything that occurs during a simulation mimics real time and real life. Today SimMom is Amelia Sung, 36,  already the mother of a boy and girl, both delivered minus any complications. She arrived in labor eight hours ago. Her husband is deployed, and she is without family in the area.

Kendall and Lane go about their care as any nurse would, introducing themselves and writing their names on a whiteboard. They take vital signs; they check the fetal heartbeat. Everything they practice is training for when they complete their clinical rotations at hospital sites throughout Hampton Roads.

Kendall already completed a clinical rotation at Mary Immaculate Hospital.

“My clinical focused on the seizure,” Kendall said. “Because we got to see it before we went to the clinical setting, we walked in and knew what to do. We were ready to go. It’s been really helpful.”

Lane spent the semester learning about mother-baby and postpartum hemorrhage. Her clinical rotation at Sentara Leigh Hospital reinforced the interventions she later saw in simulation.

“When I got into simulation, it was easy breezy,” she said.

Multiple instructors at TCC can observe the simulations and then review them with students.

“If something isn’t right or we could perfect it a little bit more, we get really good feedback on how to do that,” Lane said. “So the next sim usually we’re not walking in with the same weakness.”

“We can really refine our skills,” Kendall agreed.

Lane doesn’t have children of her own, but as a Navy wife, she can empathize even in a simulation what it must be like to give birth without a partner by your side. “You realize you are that support person for Mom,” she said.

Kendall had never witnessed a live birth prior to simulation. She recognizes the rewards of being part of an intimate moment.

“It feels so real,” Kendall agreed. “You can’t help but get a smile on your face when you say, ‘Oh, a baby girl!’ ”