Before COVID-19, most health professional training programs, hospitals, and practicing healthcare providers relied on in-person refresher courses and conferences for breastfeeding education. Without timely and skilled lactation support, there will be a rapid increase in clinic and emergency room visits due to breast infections, breast and nipple pain, infant malnutrition, and respiratory and diarrheal disease. Globally, over 150 million cases of preventable illnesses in mothers and children will overwhelm our already strained healthcare systems (Walters et al., 2019). There is an urgent need to develop a virtual, flexible option that engages learners across the healthcare continuum to support their practice, acquisition, and maintenance of clinical skills in breastfeeding management.
Blended in-person and virtual simulation-based learning will engage healthcare trainees and professionals to practice, acquire, and enhance clinical skills in breastfeeding management (Donovan et al., 2018; Gu et al., 2017; Sullivan et al., 2019). Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare system is overburdened. Nursing and medical schools around the world have converted their educational programs to online formats and hospitals have shifted their focus from maternal-child to intensive care (Beltz et al., 2020).
Kellymom’s recently published list of COVID-19 Resources for Lactation Professionals features:
- A video playlist from Health e-Learning depicting presentations on COVID-19 and infant feeding
- Protecting, promoting and supporting IYCF during the COVID-19 pandemic webinar by Save the Children, UNICEF, Safely Fed Canada and John Hopkins University
- A COVID-19 update from Baby-Friendly USA
Virtual simulation is the recreation of an in-person patient encounter on a computer screen or web-based platform to encourage the learner to practice decision making and communication skills. When learners practice counseling and assessment skills with a SP in a dynamic and immersive virtual environment, they report increased confidence and satisfaction in clinical skills, and receive higher performance scores from evaluators (Padilha et al., 2019).
Developing realistic maternal and child simulations in the virtual setting has not been possible as existing breast and newborn models are not realistic in form or function. The intimate breast exam cannot be performed in a virtual setting because of the risk to a SP’s safety in the event of a security breach.
Training programs are scrambling to develop high-quality, virtual clinical experiences for their learners as the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the available in-person training opportunities. There is no on-demand marketplace where SPs can be hired by medical/nursing schools, hospitals, or healthcare providers who need continuing education in any field, let alone in clinical lactation.
That’s why we developed the Lactation QBank platform. Through self-directed learning and virtual standardized patient encounters, users will be able to support lactation in a telehealth setting. We have trained SPs that wear the LiquidGoldConcept Lactation Simulation Model for the learner to practice breast/chest assessment and clinical lactation skills. Users can schedule an appointment with a SP according to their needs.