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Simulator "Noelle" gives birth to new learning methods at Bethel College

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- Naomi Berends, instructor of nursing at Bethel College, has delivered about a thousand babies in her career as a certified nurse midwife. But she’s probably never done it with 30 people in the room at the time. That’s only one of the advantages of Noelle, a life-sized, soft-plastic computerized birthing mother who can be programmed for all kinds of childbirth scenarios.

On Friday, Feb. 3, Noelle gave birth (three times, including a crisis birth) in one of the Bethel College nursing program’s lab wards. With that, Bethel College became one of only a handful of baccalaureate-level nursing program in the state of Kansas to have this kind of technology for junior nursing students in labor and delivery rotations, said Gregg Schroeder, Bethel’s director of nursing.

There are a number of advantages to having a birthing simulator. For one thing, said Berends, "it’s hard to predict labor and delivery," which makes that rotation much trickier, unlike on other floors, such as surgical.

Using the simulator allows for all kinds of scenarios that can help nursing students learn without posing a danger to mother or baby. Noelle can be programmed to deliver in "crisis," such as a breech birth, placenta previa or with the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby.

Preemie Baby®, which the department purchased along with Noelle, has blue lights in its cheeks, fingers and toes to simulate cyanosis and pink lights that tell when a student has performed correctly to restore oxygen levels. Students can also practice putting in breathing tubes and IVs as well as performing EKGs or suturing.

Noelle is manufactured by Gaumard Scientific Company of Miami, but can be ordered from Laerdal of Gatesville, Texas, which is where Bethel College also got its SimMan® and VitalSim® computerized simulators, inaugurated last fall. The $5,500 price tag for Noelle and Preemie Baby® was covered through nursing alumni gifts, with the bulk coming from the estate of Esther McDonald of Peabody, a 1946 Bethel Academy graduate.

Noelle will also benefit nursing students beyond Bethel. Schroeder regularly takes students to Russia. The next trip, which will include 10 senior and six junior students, will take place March 17-30 this year. Schroeder is filming Noelle giving birth and will use the videos for a presentation at a midwifery college in St. Petersburg, Russia, and for a lecture on the use of simulators in nursing education at the University of Novgorod.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at

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