Virtual care demo
Paramedic intern Marco Hernandez, from American River College, practices suctioning fluids from a "newborn" mannequin as part of his emergency labor and delivery training in the UC Davis Center for Virtual Care. Clinical instructor Dave Buettner (left) looks on.

The UC Davis Center for Virtual Care is typically a busy place. It's a warren of rooms filled with computerized mannequins, devices for practicing laparoscopic surgical techniques, various anatomically correct training modules and even a surgical robot. Located on the first floor of the hospital, the center is a high-tech teaching and training hub for UC Davis nurses, physicians, residents, medical students and patient transport teams, as well as students and health-care professionals from the community.

"Our virtual training center offers unparalleled and comprehensive learning opportunities for first responders and health-care workers from throughout the region," says Betsy Bencken, clinical instructor and chief administrative officer of the center. "The unique facilities and equipment enable students to experience life-like emergency scenarios in a risk-free environment, much in the same way pilot trainees can learn responses and procedures using flight simulators."

Virtual care demo
Paramedic intern Shauna Souther, along with American River College classmates, watches a demonstration in the Center for Virtual Care of an emergency labor and delivery scenario.

Paramedic interns from American River College recently spent several days at the center, training in the emergency delivery of babies under expected and unexpected circumstances. Birthing mannequins, which can be set up to replicate obstetric complications, enabled interns to repeatedly practice proper techniques for handling different labor and delivery situations. The trainings are designed to maximize the chances that in real life these new paramedics can assist an expectant mother with a safe delivery.

"Students truly have a wide range of training opportunities here," adds Bencken. "We can create virtually any emergency scenario, from a rattlesnake bite on a child to an adverse drug reaction in an adult trauma victim. What everyone will tell you is that while it might just be a simulated emergency with a rubbery mannequin, it quickly begins to feel very real. And that's exactly the perfect learning environment."