Virtual models for optimization of medical training

The successful cooperation between the University of West Bohemia in Plzen, the Charles University in Prague and the OTH Regensburg is being continued in a new research project. Together with its Czech partners, the Laboratory of Biomechanics, headed by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Sebastian Dendorfer, has successfully applied for funding in the INTERREG V-A: Cross-border Cooperation of the Czech Republic and the Free State of Bavaria programme (ETC 2014-2020). The project has a total budget of € 323.164.

More and more midwives/delivery nurses are withdrawing from obstetrics. In 2019, for example, district halls in Eichstätt and Schweinfurt had to be temporarily closed at Christmas due to a shortage of midwives and delivery nurses. In 2019, 128.277 children were born alive in Bavaria – the highest birth rate in 22 years. The explosive nature of these opposing trends is obvious. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that those who choose the profession of midwife/delivery nurse are able to do so for as long as possible and free of discomfort. About 70% of midwives suffer from occupational diseases of the musculoskeletal system and about 30% have already had to take days of for this reason. One of the reasons for this is the extreme positioning that obstetricians have to adopt in order to support the birth process. During birth, manual perineal protection – a grip technique that applies force to the perineum and thereby supports it – is crucial to reduce the risk of perineal trauma by up to 50-70%. This dichotomy between protecting one’s own musculoskeletal system – and thus performing one’s job as painlessly as possible – and supporting the expectant mother and child is to be largely eliminated with the help of this project.

For this purpose, an innovative digital training tool for obstetricians is being developed in this project, which on the one hand shows the user what effect his/her actions have on the abdomen of the expectant mother and the newborn. On the other hand, it also points out how much strain is placed on the user’s own musculoskeletal system. In addition, the current procedure is compared in the background with the case that has proven to be optimal for all participants in a preliminary study based on virtual human models. The movement of the obstetricians is detected by modern cameras that do not require any further sensors or markers. Based on this, the user is informed about the deviation from the determined “best-case” scenario via live feedback. The results of the project influence not only socio-economic factors (cost reduction in the health sector), but also aspects of personal life, such as the avoidance of complications and long-term health damage, as well as a faster return to work. The developed models can be applied beyond the context of the project to a wide range of ergonomic issues. For example, the system developed in this project can be used for the correct implementation of rehabilitation measures without medical supervision.

Thus, this project serves to provide additional protection for the endangered profession of midwives/maternity nurses and to make teaching in this field future-proof with the help of a modern digital training tool. The project is based on the successfully implemented Interreg V projects 38 and 182. This work was supported by the project no. 337 “Virtual models for optimization of medical training” realised within the frame of the Program INTERREG V-A: Cross-border cooperation between the Czech Republic and the Federal State of Germany, Bavaria, Aim European Cross-border Cooperation 2014–2020. The realisation is supported by financial means of the European Regional Development Fund (85% of the costs) and the state budget of the Czech Republic (5%).