Avatar surgery comes next?

Would you, in the future, choose your family doctor after having checked his practical skills by watching him during a virtual operation on an avatar? Think about it. Nursing students at Tacoma Community College (Washington), before practicing medicine on real patients, already get to practice on virtual ones in Second Life.

During a live demonstration at the League for Innovation in the Community College’s technology conference, John Miller, a nursing instructor at Tacoma, played the role of the patient lying on a hospital bed in the virtual emergency room. The avatars of his two students, both of whom were participating remotely, entered the room to treat the patient. Mr. Miller’s avatar was suffering from chest pains. The students asked typical medical questions concerning their instructor’s condition, while their avatars on the screen hooked up an IV and attached a blood-pressure cuff. Mr. Miller fed information to the program to provide the blood-pressure reading and an electrocardiogram readout. His avatar then went into cardiac arrest, and the students had to react by giving CPR and providing electrical defibrillation.

Although a virtual world is not the best place to, for example, learn how to start an IV, it gives nursing students a chance to practice medical procedures. Second Life training won’t replace traditional learning or live simulations at the college, but it provides another method of practice, says John Miller. A safe one, it has to be added.

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