Virtual medical training is nothing new — medical students have used CD-ROM’s and other interactive programs to practice diagnosis for years. And MyCaseSpace, a virtual medical-training program created by a professor at the University of Central Florida, will allow professors to create simulated cases to test students at Central Florida’s College of Medicine this fall.
What makes the Second Life approach different, according to an article in Discover magazine, is its ability to call on real-life participants, giving students access to professors or volunteers who act as patients, as well as a range of medical experts who teach or practice at colleges and universities across the country.
Students can interact with the patients and doctors, order tests, diagnose problems, and recommend treatment, according to the article.
For example, a professor at San Jose State University created a Heart Murmur Sim, which uses real cardiac sounds to train students to listen to a patient’s chest — called a cardiac auscultation exam — and identify heart murmurs, the article said.
Another program is the Nursing Education Simulation, created earlier this year by a nursing instructor in Washington. The program requires students to wear a headset with a display, like pilots use, to “monitor” and “use” defibrillators, IV pumps, and medication to treat a computer-generated patient who is experiencing certain symptoms.
While no studies have emerged about the benefits of using Second Life to train medical students, it offers a richer set of resources, with lower costs, than training in a physical, simulated operating room, said John Lester, an education and health-care market developer at Linden Lab, the company that created Second Life.
“If there’s an expert in Brussels who is a specialist in a procedure that I want to teach my students, I can bring him or her into the virtual space to train them,” Mr. Lester said in the article. “Moving around in the physical world is expensive and the biggest obstacle in medical training.” —Erica R. Hendry