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Home > Article Categories > Vocational Medical Schools > Healthcare Looks for Virtual Alternatives to Classrooms

Healthcare Looks for Virtual Alternatives to Classrooms

Due to the nursing shortage in America, there is an even greater need than ever for medical programs to produce more nurses and healthcare professionals. Schools have thus far been limited by budget constraints that prohibit them from hiring more faculty or expanding facilities to serve a higher student population. A possible solution lies in internet-based courses. Several nursing programs have made use of one inventive option: the internet based virtual reality world Second Life.
The first use of Second Life for a paramedic course was in 2008 by the Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, a partnership between St George's, University of London and Kingston University.
This program was implemented based in part on the strong practical focus of the Paramedic Science degree this institution offers. They focus on training job related, real-life problem solving skills so their alums will be quick on their feet and deftly handle emergency situations. Despite the fact that Second Life is internet based, it had many advantages as a teaching tool. "Paramedic students spend a lot of time in work placements, which can be based anywhere in the country, so it can be hard for the students to meet face-to-face with each other and with their tutors.? e-Projects Manager Emily Conradi said. She noted that ?the advantage of Second Life is that it feels more real. Students get a sense of being there together and can decide what to do from what they can see in front of them."
Students in this program were presented with five paramedic scenarios during the course. Each week they were emails a Second Life URL (SLURL) which took them directly to the virtual training site in small groups of three or four students. There, they worked together, treating the mannequin in need of medical help.
The Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences reported one such situation:
After receiving an emergency call, students arrive at the virtual scene. A female has fallen down outside a nightclub and is singing and slurring her speech. The Real Live medium allows the students to then check the patient's pulse, dress wounds, and administer drugs. They are provided with a virtual toolkit containing ambulance equipment like oxygen masks and an electrocardiogram (ECG). The students then practice getting the patient into the ambulance and to the hospital, where they practice submitting the patient's handover notes. These notes are emailed to their course instructor for evaluation and comments.
Students have given positive responses to application. Having completed the course, second year paramedic student Fiona Cropp praised it as a useful tool. ?It's much better to be able to actually perform treatments rather than just talk about it.? she said. ?Everyone is online at the same time so you can bounce ideas off each other and make an informed decision. I had never used Second Life before, but I found it really easy to get on with."

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