Virtual reality conference teaches doctors how to lower mortality rate for mothers and babies

For the fourth year in a row, Banner University Medical Center hosts a conference that's the largest of its kind.

Hundreds of people from across the country, including China, came to Arizona to learn emergency techniques to lower the mortality rates of mothers and their newborn babies.

"We just want to learn how to do the training in China for my patients. I'm from the Peking University and hospital. I think maybe we just organize how to do the training program in China," said a doctor from China. "We think about how to train the young doctor. This meeting is very interesting for us."

These people are here to learn from Professor in Chair of University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix Dr. Michael Foley about critical obstetrics care for mothers in labor who are having emergencies.

"The big key here this year is to train the trainers. So my job is to get these 500 plus people here to take all of the information back to the hospitals, spread it throughout the United States so they can work to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity which is our main goal from this," Dr. Foley said.

People break into groups and go to different training stations during the three day conference.

"We have one station set up here where we have two operating rooms set up here and the doctors have to manage a pregnant mom that just had a cardiac arrest and have to do an emergency cesarean section under duress and we teach them how to do it safely and how to approach the care," Dr. Foley said.

Another station teaches how to put IVs into bone.

"In the event that mom doesn't have IVs that are accessible and moms are dying and bleeding and there's no access to the central scenario of blood volume replacement. So we teach them how to put it right in bone which is called intraosseous," Dr. Foley said.

Banner has been on the cutting edge of technology when it comes to virtual reality for training and patient care and this conference is no different.

With the VR goggles, people are taken out of the conference and placed into the operating room.

"Standing right at bedside. They can look around at the clock. They can look at the monitors, they can look at the patient. They get to be as if they are a participant in the middle of an obstetric emergency like a postpartum hemorrhage or perimortem cesarean delivery to save mom and baby," Dr. Foley said.

Finally groups go to the largest-of-its-kind simulation center located at Banner. This entire hospital is designated for this type of training.

Medical professionals are put in real life scenarios treating robotic patients with simulated illnesses to test them.

"What we wanted to do was to give people the idea of we can teach people this is what you can do, A, B and C, but to actually have them standing in the room and ahve them watching a well oiled team manage that disease. Calling out for the orders following the checklist protocol. All of that is a whole different perspective. It's experiential learning. Having them actually be there, it increases their adrenaline and they get to see how it's supposed to work," Dr. Foley said.

Dr. Foley expects the conference to get bigger every year, which in the end will hopefully save the lives of more mothers and their babies.