Life-threatening and complicated childbirths can now be trained for on a life-like human simulator, only the second of its kind in New Zealand, at Waikato Hospital.

The mannequin or wireless birth simulator, known as Lucy Sim, is so realistic she has a heart rate, blood pressure and even makes sounds.

Doctors, nurses and midwives practised on the mannequin on Monday in a training exercise to get to grips with the hospital's newly refurbished delivery suite theatre.

Waikato Hospital consultant anaesthetist and anaesthetic simulation faculty organiser Dr Jeff Hoskins said the test was to make sure the upgraded operating room was safe for patient procedures.

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The training session included two assisted deliveries using forceps and ventouse, as well as an emergency caesarean, all relatively common obstetric possibilities but which carry risk.

"We're using a highly advanced mannequin, a robot essentially, which is able to replicate the normal processes of delivery and also is able to suffer some of the crises that are common during the delivery of a baby."

The mannequin, made by CAE Healthcare at a cost of $145,000, can be given anaesthetic and can also be resuscitated.

Deborah Cox, left, a midwife educator, and Dr Jeff Hoskins, a consultant anaesthetist at Waikato Hospital, with the childbirth simulator. Photo / Alan Gibson
Deborah Cox, left, a midwife educator, and Dr Jeff Hoskins, a consultant anaesthetist at Waikato Hospital, with the childbirth simulator. Photo / Alan Gibson

"We're using this robot so that we can get as robust a test as possible of all of our crisis response before we put patients back into that environment."

Hoskins said the simulator feels exactly like dealing with a real patient.

"Often when we train with simulation people can't believe how realistic it is and it usually brings a lot of issues to the surface which we can debrief and teach better crisis response."

Hoskins said Waikato District Health Board was fortunate to have the robot, one of the most advanced mannequin simulators in the world, with Waitemata DHB the only other health board in New Zealand to have one.

"There's nothing like putting people in their real teams in their real clinical environment and having something very rare happen so that they can train to deal with it when it happens in a patient."

Waikato DHB charge midwife manager for delivery suite Celeste Pon said the simulator provides an amazing opportunity for training.

"This was really about testing the absolute worst-case scenarios. Research has shown that when we are working together as a team it's really important to be able to get together in simulation."

The training involved anaesthetists, theatre nurses, midwives and an obstetrician.

Midwife educator Deborah Cox said midwifery, nursing and multidisciplinary emergency training days have all been revamped since Lucy's arrival.

"In the past we have had to rely on willing participants to role play, and obviously there were severe limitations on what we could show or do," Cox said.

"With Lucy, it allows a much more realistic scenario and a lot more realistic detail for staff to practice with.

"She's a really important member of our maternity healthcare team."

The DHB's simulation centre director Rob Sinclair said the robot was an excellent addition to Waikato Hospital's suite of human patient simulators which included a premature baby simulator, and was purchased after much research of the options.

He said midwives had embraced simulation-based education and the realism and practice that can be achieved in a safe environment to acquire new skills and communication behaviours - without risking real patients.