ST. PETERSBURG — Standing in front of an infant mannequin, Dr. Jen Arnold smiled as she spoke about her future here.
Arnold, who stars in the TLC series The Little Couple, explained Friday afternoon her plans to shape Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital's Simulation Center as its medical director.
"We are a small but mighty team," she said. "This is going to be a very innovative center."
Arnold, 43, joined Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital this month. The staff, which includes three others, ran a simulation Friday, demonstrating a neonatal resuscitation. As director, she plans on working with new parents and teaching them how to care for premature infants before they come home from the hospital. She also plans on expanding training to military personnel and first responders. Along with her role as medical director of the center, she will also be a part-time assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University.
The center will train clinical staff and graduate students in high-risk or emergency situations and will be housed in the Research & Education Building, set to open in fall 2018.
As they prepared for the simulation, Arnold pulled on a pair of white gloves and looked over to Melissa Jo Powell, an advanced education specialist.
"Are you ready, Melissa?" Arnold asked with a smile.
"Sure," Powell replied. They spoke back and forth, and after putting a breathing tube in the mannequin, heard a steady heartbeat.
A baby's cry broke the paused silence. Arnold smiled.
"It's all about saving lives," she said.
A 2016 Johns Hopkins study suggested hospital errors account for more than 250,000 deaths a year, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States. Powell, who is certified in health care simulation training, said the number is appalling. Through practice at the center, they're hoping to lower those numbers.
"It's like crashing a plane in health care every day," she said. "We don't want to crash planes anymore."
Arnold's family life and career as a neonatologist with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, a rare genetic disorder that stunted her growth and caused orthopedic complications, is featured on The Little Couple. The family's move to Florida plays a significant role in the show's ninth season, which premieres Sept. 19.
TLC is in talks with All Children's about filming the next season in the hospital.
Arnold was born in St. Anthony's Hospital and was transferred as an infant to All Children's neonatal intensive care unit. She grew up in Orlando, received her undergraduate degree from the University of Miami and her medical degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Her love for the beach meant she wanted to get married by the water, she said, but the question was whether it would be in New York, where her husband, Bill Klein, is from, or St. Petersburg.
"You know, happy wife, good life, I won," she said, grinning. They married at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace church and held the reception at the Don CeSar Hotel.
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The move from Houston, where the family built their life, was not an easy choice. But her husband was supportive.
For Arnold, Florida feels like home. She spent summers on Pass-a-Grille beach when she was younger. They had breakfast at the Sea Horse restaurant before days on the beach, a tradition she hopes to continue with her kids.
"This is definitely a great place to grow up and raise your kids, and the job opportunity here is really a dream," she said.