Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome One Demonstration at a Time

by Kati Stacy

Around 2005, Kathy Lopez-Bushnell, APRN, EdD, MPH, MSN, Director of ClinicalNursing Research at University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH), was in a meeting when a community member approached her and said they had a terrible problem.

“She said that we’re not taking care of the families of shaken baby victims,” said Lopez-Bushnell. “So she and I and the CEO and other execs met and she told her story.”

This community member, who represented families going through the legal systemregarding Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) cases, explained that New Mexico had one of the highest rates of SBS and child abuse death in the country.

“After listening to her story, the execs saw there was a problem and they turned to me and said, go fix it,” Lopez-Bushnell shared.

After researching literature, Lopez-Bushnell found a program in New York state, headed by Mark S. Dias, MD, FAAP. The premise of Dias’ program was that parents who were taught about SBS immediately after their babies were born, when parent-child bonding is very strong, would be less likely to shake their baby. Dias’ program also recognized the effectiveness that these parents could have on disseminating SBS information to others who might be in the position of caring for their child. Dias’ program was so successful that it cut the rates of SBS in the eight-county region of western New York in half.

“I called him and told him we’d like to replicate his study,” said Lopez-Bushnell. “He couldn’t have been more helpful. He sent us volumes of information and we recreated his study here.”

In 2010, UNMH began a program modeled on this study. In 2012, they began using the RealCare™ Shaken Baby simulator by Realityworks®, Inc., with the educational program that was already in place.

UNMH Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention and Awareness Program

UNMH’s Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention and Awareness Program (SBSPAP) has four main goals:

  1. to provide educational materials about SBS to the parents of newborn infants
  2. to assess parents’ comprehension of the dangers of violent infant shaking
  3. to track penetration of the program through the collection of returned commitment statements (CS); and
  4. to evaluate the program’s effect on the incidence of SBS.

They work to accomplish this by teaching families of newborns as well as families with infants who come into the ICU for various reasons.

“We’re a Level II unit in ICU, so we take babies who are usually sick,” said Erika Cole, RN, BSN, RNC-LRN, ICN Unit Director at UNMH. “Upon admission to the unit, we start discharge teaching right away. One of the key pieces that we touch with every parent is the prevention of SBS using the Shaken Baby simulator.”

The program incorporates several tools during this education process. A handout gives tips about how to cope with infant crying and stats about what SBS is, etc. Nurses are given training on how to speak with parents and caregivers about how babies cry, that it’s okay if they cry and giving parents the okay to put them down and walk away if the need to. When Babies Cry, a video which comes with the Shaken Baby simulator, is shown. Finally, there is a demonstration with the Shaken Baby simulator to dramatically depict how easy it is to cause damage to an infant and what harm can potentially occur. From January 2016 to August 2016, 786 parents have participated in UNMH’s program.

The Shaken Baby simulator looks, feels and sounds like a real infant, with the exception of its clear head, which is equipped with LED lights. When shaken, the lights illuminate areas of the brain that have been damaged by the shaking event. “It’s a hard topic to discuss, and many parents might think, ‘Who doesn’t know not to shake a baby,’” said Cole. “But surprisingly 1 out of 6 parents we’ve talked with say that this was the first time they heard that [shaking a baby] was dangerous.”

Seven months later the families are called and asked what they remember of this education. According to Deisree Torrez, mathematician and research volunteer with the program, most parents remember working with the simulator.

One story that sticks out the most is a conversation she had with a Dad who called back.

“He said, ‘I remember the doll the most,’” Desiree Torrez recounted. “He continued, stating ‘whenever my baby cries and I start to get frustrated, I just remember you guys making me shake that doll and I know it’s time to put my kid down. I just don’t want to do that to my child.’”

The program has recently expanded its efforts to prevent child abuse by incorporating 30 additional Shaken Baby simulators into their program. Created by Realityworks, Inc., these electronic simulators have helped the hospital significantly reduce rates of Shaken Baby Syndrome since they were first implemented in 2012.

“There is a substantial amount of child abuse in NM, and a need for education as a potential preventative measure, given the significant morbidity and mortality in our state,” said Christopher Torrez, MD, Pediatric Resident Physician, PGY 3 at UNMH . “The doll leaves a lasting impression on our parents. Often, when we complete the 7-month follow-up, one of the things they remember the most is interacting with the doll.”

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of a larger testimonial about the UNMH Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention and Awareness Program. Click here to read the testimonial in its entirety.

From our Product Support Team: Demonstrate a Shaking Event with the Shaken Baby Simulator in 4 Steps

By Nate Schlieve, Realityworks Product Support Technician

According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 1,300 U.S. children experience severe or fatal head trauma from child abuse every year.

We believe that by educating parents and caregivers about shaken baby syndrome and how to prevent it, instances of severe or fatal head trauma can be greatly reduced.

One way to provide such education is through our RealCare™ Shaken Baby Simulator, which dramatically depicts how an infant’s brain is affected by just a few seconds of shaking. By combining this powerful demonstration with the accompanying curriculum, you can increase awareness of the dangers of Shaken Baby Syndrome and child abuse.


How do you correctly use the Shaken Baby Simulator to make the greatest impact on your audience? We recommend taking the following steps to successfully demonstrate a shaking event and maximize the effectiveness of our Shaken Baby Simulator.

Demonstrate a shaking event with the Shaken Baby Simulator in 4 Steps:

  1. Ensure the simulator is equipped with fresh C batteries.
  2. Use the nose of the battery cover key or the blunt end of a pen or pencil to fully engage the red activation button on the back of the simulator.
  3. Engaging the red activation button will prompt the simulator to calibrate, and the lights in its head will flash. Do not move the simulator while this is happening.
  4. Once the lights have stopped flashing, the simulator will begin crying. When you are ready, demonstrate a shaking event by using quick, snapping motions through the wrists instead of long, sweeping arches.


To see exactly how this works, watch me demonstrate a shaking event with the Shaken Baby Simulator in this 1-minute video.

Did you know that our Shaken Baby Simulator is currently on sale? Click here to learn more and take advantage of our RealCare Spring Promo, which expires on June 30, 2015.

Babies are for Hugging, not Shaking: Why Realityworks’ Shaken Baby Simulator is my Favorite

By Stacy Knudson, Realityworks Account Services Representative 

How many people get to work with babies all day long without ever having to change a diaper? How many of those infant heads flash with red lights?

Relaityworks‘ Account Services Team has the privilege of being involved with many life-changing, generally adorable simulators. However, the Baby I favor most happens to be a bit bizarre-looking: our RealCare™ Shaken Baby Simulator.


The Shaken Baby simulator’s clear head makes it easy to see the devastating brain damage that occurs after just a few seconds of shaking an infant.

At first glance, people often chuckle and say, “Why is that Baby’s head flashing?” or “Is that Baby from outer space?” Viewers are then informed that the lights depict brain damage, and that damage is a direct result of shaking. Interest is solemnly piqued.

With a stand-out, hands-on simulator starring the show, a demonstration becomes astounding. It may even be slightly disturbing to some. But anybody within viewing distance gets the best take-away ever: an image forever etched in their mind.

The mental image may make all the difference in that moment. Have you ever experienced the moment I’m talking about? You’re desperately exhausted; the baby just keeps fussing but you’re even too tired to cry; you’re four hours past your wit’s end; the baby is of course oblivious to anybody besides him/herself; you’re exasperated, lonely and frustrated AND YOU JUST WANT IT TO STOP!

At that point, there are a few routes to take. You may opt to remove yourself from the situation until you feel calm and rational again.

Or, you may jolt the child quiet.

Most people, thankfully, would choose the former. However, all too often, caregivers choose the quick fix, with disastrous results.

Perhaps if the caregiver had a powerful mental image to call upon, even if he/she was already educated on SBS, he or she may be better equipped to make the difficult, but safe, choice at 2:14 a.m.

That is precisely why our Shaken Baby Simulator is my favorite. The mental image of the “Baby with the flashing head” may be just enough to make somebody stop and think… and it might mean the difference between “danger” and “safety.”

National Child Abuse Prevention Month begins in April. For resources, information and ideas to recognize this important month in your classroom or office next month, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare website here.

Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome with Education

When a local parent made local news headlines last year for shaking his four-month-old hard enough to induce a coma, conversations turned to the importance of educating parents and caregivers about Shaken Baby Syndrome and we had the opportunity to feature our RealCare Shaken Baby simulator the parenting program “Moms Everyday.” Last week, local news outlets reported that the parent had pleaded guilty to felony child abuse, and we were reminded once again of the importance of education as a means to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome and child abuse.


Shaken Baby Syndrome is 100% preventable. A key aspect of prevention is increasing awareness of the potential dangers of shaking, and tools like our Shaken Baby simulator can help. Designed to show how quickly brain damage can occur after just a few seconds of shaking an infant, this electronic simulator cries inconsolably and when shaken, accelerometers inside its head show damage to specific brain areas in real time.

Together, we can make parents and caregivers aware of the dangers of shaking infants and prevent more tragedies like this from occurring.

Click here to view the full “Moms Everyday” clip featuring RealCare Shaken Baby simulator. For more information, visit our website at

Local Educator Uses Simulator to Prevent Child Abuse

EAU CLAIRE, Wis., February 20, 2014 – Anoka Middle School for the Arts teacher Linda Keller is making a big impact on student’s lives by using an infant simulator for child abuse prevention. Keller, a seventh-grade Family & Consumer Sciences (FACS) teacher, acquired one of RealityworksRealCare® Shaken Baby simulators during a drawing at the Minnesota Family & Consumer Science Conference this past January.


Each year, Keller teaches 250-300 students a variety of lifetime skills, from food and nutrition to caring for and understanding infants, toddlers and preschoolers. She has a passion for families, no matter their composition, and uses that passion every day as she works with impressionable adolescents.

“These kids are at the perfect age to take on new tasks. What we teach them helps them take on new responsibilities needed for life,” said Keller.

During the child abuse prevention learning target in her child development unit, Keller emphasizes the importance of managing stress and frustration with her students. She helps them understand how a moment of losing their “cool” could make a life-long impact on a child. To assist in conveying this to her students, Keller uses the RealCare Shaken Baby simulator. When the simulator is shaken, parts of its brain that are damaged light up, demonstrating to students the long-term effects shaking a baby could have. The success of this unit and the simulator highlights the crucial need for education in FACS classes.

“No matter what a child’s future career path is, being a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome will cause damage to parts of the brain that are critical in developing future skills needed to succeed,” said Keller. “With this simulator, we will be able to make a greater visual impact and impression on students of this fact.”

Keller will be sharing her new simulator with Anoka FACS colleagues, and hopes to extend this type of education to all middle school students enrolled in Minnesota’s largest school district.

For more information on Realityworks and the RealCare Shaken Baby simulator, visit

About Realityworks, Inc.

Realityworks, Inc. was established 19 years ago with the mission to better address teen pregnancy prevention, parenting skills, and to address child abuse and neglect through educational products. Realityworks is most famous for RealCare Baby (known formerly as Baby Think It Over, BTIO). Over the last decade, this unique company developed several other simulators and programs with the desire to create engaging, experiential learning tools. These tools help educators engage students while bettering the human condition. New products address career preparation areas such as business management, finance and entrepreneurship, and most recently a welding simulation system known as teachWELD. The company has made a worldwide impact, sending simulators into more than 67 percent of U.S. school districts and reaching more than 6,000,000 young people. Programs also extend to more than 89 countries worldwide. For more information, visit, or call toll-free 800-830-1416.

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Media Contact:
Janelle Krause
Public Relations and Event Specialist