Thelma & Louise keep NICU team emergency ready

IU Health Arnett’s twin simulators representing babies at 25 weeks gestation help keep NICU staff prepared for various scenarios.

They can hear breathing sounds. They can intubate the infants. There’s a chamber under the umbilical lines for blood return. These twins aren’t real but they simulate real life – the life that comes from newborns – often in distress.

The Premature Anne Task Trainer Twin Pack – commonly known as “Thelma and Louise” – are the newest additions to the NICU family at IU Health Arnett. Their arrival came when they were at 25 weeks gestation – that’s 15 weeks premature.  And they are a welcome addition to the NICU team. Every month – and sometimes more often – the simulators are the center of attention for a Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) training attended by about 130 hospital employees working in the child health line including doctors, nurses, nurse midwives, respiratory therapists and nurse practitioners.

“This is very typical for us. We aren’t training for things we rarely see. We want to continue training for things we experience so we are able to react to every situation in the best way,” said Shari Hacker, a Clinical Nurse in the NICU who also works as a rescue squad captain with the Wabash Township Fire Department.

Neonatal clinical nurse Becky Kudelka describes a typical scenario: “We had a 35-year-old mom who was pregnant with multiples. She came in dilated at three centimeters and delivered within five minutes. She was 27 weeks pregnant. All of the babies needed intubated; all were on ventilators. They were the sickest and weakest preemies but they all ended up turning out well because we have a strong team with lots of experience.” At one point they had up to 14 people working with the newborns.

Neonatologist Dr. Abhay Singhal – a parent himself – and the medical director of NICU pediatrics at Arnett has been a big proponent of the training and purchase of the simulators, funded by a grant from IU Health Foundation. 

“We want every mother to feel like we can provide the highest level of care to her newborn,” said Kudelka, who has been a NICU nurse for 16 years. “And we want anyone to be trained to assist at any time in any of these types of high-risk deliveries,” added Hacker, who has been a NICU nurse for 11 years and an EMT for 19 years. In addition to NRP training, twice a year the NICU stages a mock code to keep staff members on their toes. In the future, they also plan to reach out to smaller regional hospitals and the hospital’s ER staff to offer training.

Kudelka is the mother of two children, ages 12 and eight; Hacker is the mother of two daughters, ages 22 and 27. “My oldest was a preemie so I’ve been on the other side of the fence. We want to give every baby the best chance for as meaningful a survival as possible and as a parent in NICU I want to make sure the parents are involved and feel comfortable,” said Hacker.

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
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