By Christina Orlovsky, senior staff writer
Pilots are trained in flight simulators; astronauts travel
virtually into space to train for missions; and the military prepares for combat
in 3D. Soon nurses who provide care for vulnerable newborns in the neonatal
intensive care unit (NICU) will join the ranks of professionals turning toward
video game technology for specialized training.
NICU Critical Decision Simulation (CDS) software has been
developed at Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, in Falls Church, Virginia, to
train NICU nurses on the delicate procedures tiny patients undergo in the unit.
Created in partnership with Rival Interactive, a video game development company
based in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, the 3D tool is aimed at protecting patient
safety while educating new NICU nurses on critical clinical situations.
The idea for the simulator was conceived several years ago by
NICU nurse Jerrod Ullah, RN, during a vacation conversation with his friend, and
video game developer, Jim Omer.
“He started talking about what he did, and I started talking
about what I did, and the light bulb came on about how great it would be to
bring gaming to nursing,” Ullah explained. “Nursing is so much about education
that we thought it would be the perfect fit.”
After kicking the idea around and pitching it to hospital
administrators, the duo, along with NICU clinical nurse specialist Jill Duncan,
RN, MSN, MPH, received donor funding and were able to create a prototype for
training nurses in specific skill sets, such as IV insertion, hanging drips and
medication administration. Nurses make decisions about the care of a newborn on
the screen and are able to see the effects or consequences of these decisions.
“The designers at Rival Interactive are incredible at
animating the baby to make it look real to life. We wanted to immerse the user
in the animation so they believe it’s real, so that if the baby deteriorates,
you can see what would really happen,” Ullah explained.
“The other thing,” Ullah added, “is that we’re training
low-frequency, high-risk events. Much like a flight simulator training on an
engine failure, we’re having high-risk events happen so that the nurse will have
to intervene to make the patient improve.”
Ullah and Duncan based the simulated training on
evidence-based practices and standards from the American Academy of Pediatrics
so that it is able to be used at hospitals across the country. While the project
is in need of more funds to reach completion, Ullah is confident that the
software is a tool that will be of great use in the NICU and beyond. In fact,
the team hopes to expand the simulator to pediatrics and the PICU.
“It’s a perfect match for nursing in general, but the NICU
especially, because you have a high skill set, a lot of technology and very
little room for error,” Ullah concluded.
“This system is going to be on-demand training, and from a
nursing standpoint, it will decrease infection, increase safety and increase
performance,” he added. “The best way to learn is to do, and this gets as close
to doing as possible.”
For more information, visit the Web sites of Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children and Rival Interactive.
© 2006. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.