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A new virtual baby is helping ASU nursing students prepare for a career in the real world.

The virtual baby, Nicolas, which is being used for the first time by ASU students this semester, allows students to respond to 10 real life-emergency situations.

Nicolas is equipped with vital signs such as heartbeat and blood pressure that students can actually hear and monitor. Students can also draw blood and give the baby medication.

Nicolas, which stands for Neonatal Interactive Computerized Learning System, is the only interactive virtual baby in Arizona.

Jacqueline McGrath, director of the neonatal nurse practitioner program, said the computerized baby simulates asphyxiated birth and lets students practice intubation, a procedure that uses a tube to help a baby breathe manually.

“This gives students the opportunity to practice life saving skills,” McGrath said

Nicolas’ home is the ASU Neonatal Education and Outreach Center, which is part of a $203,568 grant to meet the need for neonatal nurse practitioners in Arizona and throughout the country. McGrath said each student has at least 10 job offers after graduating from the program.

The ASU neonatal nursing program is one of only 30 in the country and the only one in Arizona, said Carol Harrigan, coordinator of the Neo-Center.

Harrigan said that Nicolas would provide students with a method for handling an emergency situation with a newborn baby.

“Students will be able to do all skills on the virtual baby before doing them on a real life-baby,” she said.

After a student interacts with Nicolas, the computer will evaluate the student’s response and give a grade. Teachers will be able to give tests using Nicolas, McGrath said.

The neonatal center is designed to resemble a real hospital with incubators and radiant warmers used to keep newborn babies warm, McGrath said. OHMEDA, a medical supply company, and the Phoenix Indian Medical Center donated the hospital equipment.

Reach Jennifer Voges at

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