Meet Victoria, the Robot Who Gives Birth
Victoria blinks, breathes, talks, and bleeds, just like you. Not terribly impressive stuff—except that she’s a robot.
Nursing students at the MGH Institute of Health Professions use Victoria to practice, as realistically as possible, how to guide mother and child through birth. Just like human mothers, Victoria’s deliveries don’t always go as planned. Sometimes she has complications. Sometimes she hemorrhages fake blood, via a tank on her hips. Sometimes her baby isn’t breathing. And just like practicing nurses, students have to confront those problems head-on.
“It makes it so much more real when it bleeds a little bit, and out comes the head, and then she hemorrhages,” says assistant professor of nursing Mimi Pomerleau. “You learn so much when you’re confronted with having to do it. You can understand it, conceptually, but when you’re actually there doing and thinking in the moment, that’s when things really begin to click.”
Simulation is a cornerstone of health education, allowing students to learn and make mistakes without jeopardizing an actual patient’s health. Commonly, schools use standardized patients—actors who mimic real patients as closely as possible—to stage life-like scenarios. With Victoria, however, MGH is able to simulate situations that would be dangerous or impossible to construct using living, feeling, humans.
“We make her do all kinds of things,” Pomerleau says. “It isn’t real, but it is very close.” Professors can even speak into a mouthpiece to make Victoria “talk” during delivery.
Pomerleau says simulation at MGH is mainly used for education, not assessment. Each session is followed by a debrief, in which students watch a video of the birth to see what they did and said right and wrong.
Victoria is a great education tool, sure, but isn’t she kind of creepy?
“[The students] are freaked out—especially when they see her blinking,” Pomerleau laughs. “I know it’s fake. You know it’s fake. But we do all that we can to pretend that this is your patient, because that’s where you’re going to learn.”