ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - She was born in St. Pete and now she's come home. This week, Dr. Jen Arnold, star of the hit reality TV show "The Little Couple," became Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital's newest doctor.
Before we got to know Arnold on the TLC network, she'd already made a big name for herself in the medical simulation field. Now she's bringing that expertise to All Children's.
"I didn't know she was a television celebrity when we were recruiting her. She's already sort of a rock star in the simulation world," said All Children's Pediatric Surgery Chief Dr. Paul Danielson.
Arnold will head up the hospital's new 10,000 square foot simulation center. The facility will be a place for doctors, surgeons, nurses and even parents to learn and practice lifesaving skills. The center allows health care providers to respond to simulated emergencies and to practice basic skills like CPR on a life-like mannequin, instead of an actual child.
"I did my first spinal tap on a real baby. I did my first intubation on a real baby," said Arnold. "With simulation and the technology today we can avoid that and really provide an opportunity for safe learning."
Arnold knows first-hand how important simulation learning is. After she was born with dwarfism she spent much of her childhood in and out of hospital operating rooms.
"I know many of the residents practiced on me," said Arnold. "Even my own surgeon would say things like, 'Well, I tried something new I never tried before.' On some level, you're appreciative of the fact that he did something new but then at the same time… a little frightened of the fact that it was an experiment on you."
The new facility will have a variety of child "patients" of all sizes, from premature infants to teens. The life-like mannequins are controlled by an unseen observer who, with the help of an iPad, can make the simulated child breathe, bleed, talk, and even blink.
Simulations not only allow participants to practice new skills for the first time, the facility also allows medical providers to brush up on procedures they may not have experienced since their school days.
"We're human. Medicine is stressful. There are rare situations and high-risk situations and you have to make decisions very quickly and perform very extensive medical procedures to save a life and if you can practice that and rehearse it in a simulated environment then that means that when you see the real thing you're going to be as prepared as possible," said Arnold.
Cutting edge 3D technology will also help the hospital's surgeons prepare.
"Say for example you have a baby with a congenital heart anomaly, we can image that baby with CAT scans and MRIs, take the data from the imaging, put it into a 3D printer and we can print out what that heart would actually look like," said Danielson. "The surgeon will be able to hold that heart in their hands, look at it, turn it over, cut it open and essentially practice the repair that they want to do."
A smaller version of the simulation center is already in operation, but Dr. Arnold said the new facility, scheduled to open in the fall of 2018, will revolutionize the patient and caregiver experience at All Children's.
"What excites me about this is that it will just enhance the way that we give care and save a lot of pain and bad outcomes for kids that otherwise we wouldn't have predicted," she said.
A new season of "The Little Couple" will be released in September. It was filmed before Arnold and her family moved from Houston. TLC will begin filming in the next season in the Bay Area in January.