Video game trains health professionals to revive newborn babies

EDMONTON – Six University of Alberta undergraduate students have developed a video game that helps health workers improve their neonatal resuscitation skills.

Doctors saw a need for more hands-on training and now hope this program will help save the lives of newborns.

“We were approached in the spring of 2014 by neonatal physicians in the U of A’s faculty of medicine and dentistry who identified a need for better neonatal resuscitation training to help prevent infant deaths,” said computing science professor Vadim Bulitko. “Student teams from our fall and winter terms of the computers and games class submitted proposals for the chance to work on the game.”

REsuscitation TrAIning for Neonatal residents (RETAIN) provides a customized gaming experience that adapts to the skills of the user.

“As far as we know, there isn’t a game or training system like this in the world,” said Bulitko.

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“Neonatal resuscitation training has worldwide relevance, but training can’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

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In the game, the player is directed to a delivery room to help with a neonatal resuscitation. Once there, the player is given limited information and a series of visual prompts to alert them to the baby’s condition. Correct medical decisions must be made within a limited time to ensure the infant’s survival.

“The game scenario provides an element of drama and stress, because if you do the wrong thing, then something happens to the baby,” explained Georg Schmölzer, an assistant professor of neonatal resuscitation.

“Most of the time when there’s a problem, people aren’t taking the right steps because stress freezes them. That’s an area we’d like to see improvement in and test through the game – whether people who play it can learn to handle stress better.”

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University of Alberta students hope a new video game will help save babies’ lives. Su-Ling Goh, Global News

“Video gamers are not just in their basements shooting things up; games can have a wide-reaching social impact,” said Bulitko. “These so-called serious games can be used for education and training.”

Worldwide, about one million newborn infants die annually from asphyxia at birth. Additionally, one in 10 are born prematurely, and 20 per cent of those will require help breathing from trained personnel.

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