Training program helps to improve outcomes for babies and moms during delivery

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Having a baby is about the riskiest thing that a woman will ever do. Many things can wrong during labor and delivery.

Doctors and nurses at the University of Kansas Hospital are training together for emergencies. They've just published research showing their program is associated with fewer problems for babies and moms.

A nurse, playing a mom in labor, presses the call button. Soon, it's clear this is an emergency. The umbilical cord is trapped against the baby's body during delivery, causing a loss of oxygen. They must get the mom to the operating room quickly.

This simulation is an example of PROMPT or Practical Obstetric Multi-Professional Training. It takes place for two days each year. Nurses and doctors learn together.

"How to take over in an an emergency when the person who's in charge isn't really getting it right," said Dr. Carl Weiner, chair of gynecology and obstetrics at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

Michelle Schulz, a nurse at K.U. Hospital, added, "A lot of times in the past, it's always been 'I'm the physician. You shouldn't question me. I know what's best.' So honestly, this really does take it out."

K.U. Hospital's results over the seven years of the program were just published in the Journal of Perinatology.

"We have halved the number of babies who have brain damage at birth," said Dr. Weiner.

He says they've also dramatically reduced nerve damage that can happen when babies' shoulders get stuck during delivery. They're called brachial plexus injuries.

"We have not had a permanent injury in almost five years now and we've only had one transient injury and we would expect to have dozens of em by then," said Dr. Weiner.

He estimates PROMPT has helped avoid close to $40 million dollars in health care costs.

PROMPT started in Great Britain. K.U. Hospital was the first in the U.S. to use it. The hospital has trained a dozen other U.S. hospitals and hopes to train more next year.