Mister Smith isn't at all well. During his stay he will be seen by many medical students. Unfortunately, he isn't going to get any better. Mister Smith occupies the respiratory ward in the Imperial College London, in Second Life. Available to students 24 hours per day, seven days per week, Mister Smith wheezes on command, and a variety of tests can be scheduled on him.
It's all a part of the College's exploration of new ways of teaching. Mister Smith's case is mostly procedural. It's not only important to obtain the diagnosis, but to follow proper procedure -- a vital part of avoiding error in modern medicine. The simulator enforces proper procedure.
Mister Smith isn't as effective as genuine patients with genuine problems, but he's tolerant of errors, never complains about the food, and is constantly available for students who want to brush up, without inconveniencing people who have genuine problems.
Students working their way through the medical system in this generation are very technologically savvy, and the college is finding new ways of applying those skills to the furtherance of their training. When running the simulation from the classroom, students work in pairs, overseen by an instructor, and confine their communication to the communication tools within Second Life.
The virtual wards are a bit spartan, but they do the job, and there appears to space allocated on the next floor for another simulation. It will be interesting to see if the college expands on its simulation facilities.
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