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Virtual 3-D Online Nursing Education A Reality

Submitted by Admin on July 18, 2009, 4:07 pm

Discover Magazine reports that medical and nursing schools are are turning to Second Life and its 3-D virtual world to train the next generation of health care workers.

"A nursing student walks into a hospital room where a woman who has just given birth is lying in bed. When the student asks how the new mother is feeling, she admits that she is dizzy, and might need to be sick. Preparing to examine her, the student pulls back the sheet and finds the mattress soaked with blood. The patient is experiencing a post-partum hemorrhage, and could bleed to death in minutes."

"Instantly, the nurse scrambles into action—taking the woman’s blood pressure, affixing an oxygen mask, starting an IV. She calls for help, and her colleagues rush into the room, yelling back and forth as they assess what is happening and what needs to be done to save the patient’s life. After a few minutes of frenzied activity, the bleeding stops, the woman’s blood pressure stabilizes, and the team breathes a collective sigh of relief."

"Then they put down their headsets and step away from their computer screens."

"The scene is a simulation on Second Life, the 3-D virtual world in which users can create avatars and interact in realistic spaces and communities. Colleges and universities have been using the site to hold lectures and other learning activities, and now medical schools and other health-care training programs are following suit." (Lafsky, Discover Magazine, 7/16/09).

In this humble nurse's opinion Second Life's Virtual environment seems like a perfect fit for online nursing education. the Nursing Education Simulation (NESIM) facilitates interaction between nursing students and an avatar patient, a computer-generated character instructed to follow a certain script, who is experiencing chest pain or other symptoms. Students must use simulated medical equipment to accurately treat the patient. After completing the NESIM program, students meet with nursing school instructors (in the virtual classroom) to discuss what worked and opportunities for improvement within the Second Life scenario.

Even after the online nursing school faculty leaves the discussion students can also discuss their work, network, and compare notes in a way that isn’t always possible in real life thanks to the virtual environment. In fact, online students get to practice scenarios and situations they wouldn't be able to in traditional classrooms because they wouldn't get to be involved with life threatening patient situations during real world clinical rotations or be allowed to make decisions or practice using complex equipment and medications etc..

Since there's a severe shortage of nurse educators and clinical facilities available to accomodate the needs of campus based nursing programs this sounds like an excellent way of using the virtual world to cut costs and serve the needs of more nursing students without needing as many actual real world clinical sites as well. What are your opinions though?

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