Newborn and pregnancy emergency simulations help train Texas health care providers

State & Regional

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Delinda Castillo’s passion for working with premature babies immediately shows when she starts talking about her 17-year career. 

“The trials and tribulations that these little micro preemies go through with so much against them, to see them grow into healthy children is just a really, really great feeling,” Castillo said. 

Castillo, who works at Texas Children’s Hospital, knows that feeling first hand. “I’ve had the pleasure of taking care of a patient that was born at 23 weeks and survived. It’s a great feeling to know that I helped contribute to that.”

Now she helps educate others on how to properly care for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, through personal experiences and simulations. It’s a critical educational resource, she says. 

“How to properly position them, how to gently turn them, how to work with other team members to care for the patients.”

The Simulator Center at Texas Children’s Hospital provides hands-on pediatric and obstetric simulation training and is aimed at training providers to prepare for anything that can come their way. 

“You can’t practice on the baby,” Kellie Kainer, assistant clinical director at Texas Children’s Hospital said. “You’ve got to be good at it before you can take care of a real patient. It can be clinical. It can be communication, team collaboration — all those kinds of things are what we can teach when we have a simulator.” 

Dr. Sarah Page-Ramsey, who is an associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and an obstetrician-gynecologist, trains professionals to use simulations so they can prepare for obstetric emergencies.  

“We had a situation where a patient was injured by a motor vehicle,” she said. “Our team was able to respond quickly to the situation and save the patient and the baby.” 

Recommendations by experts 

The Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force sent lawmakers a list of recommendations to consider as they craft legislation to improve care for new mothers and babies. Among their ideas: extension of Medicaid benefits to women for a full year after pregnancy and more collaboration across healthcare teams.  

“This is incredibly important for women’s health because it gives us the opportunity to ensure their care is coordinated,” Dr. Lisa Hollier, chair of the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force said. 

“Opportunities we might have to bring in community health workers, care coordinators, care navigators to help women access the services they need. That would be a wonderful opportunity. In addition, we’re looking at the benefit from enhanced screening for risk factors for pregnant women.” 

Stacey D. Stewart, president of March of Dimes, was also in Austin this week to meet with the experts working on the front lines to improve care for mothers and newborns. 

“There are certain solutions that have to be in place and those things have to be intervening in the hospital, making sure if there are emergency situations that those are dealt with immediately with the right protocols but also making sure women know to be monitoring their health before pregnancy, during pregnancy and certainly after pregnancy,” Stewart said. 

Several Texas lawmakers have filed legislation to address maternal and newborn care. 

Page-Ramsey added: “Anything that the state can do to invest in that, whether that’s encouraging the financial and administrative support for those types of programs at the institutional level and the regional level will help those programs be successful.” 

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