Saturday, December 6, 2008

Midwives and Second Life

One of the things I have been interested in for some time is the virtual world Second Life and its potential for midwifery practice and education.

Virtual birthing unit
One of the ideas I have been playing with is a virtual birthing unit; a place where midwives and students can think about normal birth without the constraints of physical space, policies and constant surveillance. I am aware that there are places in Second Life that are designed for medical education but I haven't come across anywhere that would suit midwives' particular needs. But then again, until recently I hadn't really thought about what needs midwives have that can be addressed in Second Life other than providing a place to meet.

A few weeks ago, I submitted a proposal along with a colleague, Deborah Davis to Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ). This proposal was accepted and I am thrilled to be the lead educator on the project. The project will consist of collaborating with midwifery educators in Christchurch and Auckland as well as SLENZ to design, build and evaluate a virtual birthing unit. The learning activities planned will meet some or all of these learning outcomes:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of the independent midwife;
  • demonstrate effective evidence based, midwifery practice guided by a sound knowledge base;
  • demonstrate the ability to make appropriate midwifery decisions, including the appropriate referral of clients to other health professionals;
  • demonstrate beginning professional midwifery practice using a clearly articulated framework within which decisions can be made and documented;
  • demonstrate an understanding of significance of concepts of accountability, responsibility and independent practice as they relate to midwifery practice in New Zealand;
  • critically reflect on meaning and knowledge embedded in practice in development of midwifery role;
  • demonstrate effective communication skills;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role of the midwife in the normal childbirth process.

  • What we want to achieve
    The first thing that has to be done is firming up an idea of how we want to achieve these learning outcomes. We do not want to go down the road of developing a lot of medical artifacts ie machines and procedures, because our focus is normal birth. Having said that, the virtual environment allows us to 'practice' and work our way through scenarios in a way that we could not in real life.

    To get an idea of what could be achieved, I met Scott Diener (Professor Noarlunga) in a space "Long White Cloud" (picture above). In the hospital Scott has developed a post partum hemorrhage scenario - the student sees the hemorrhage, and has to deal with it - the woman is played by an instructor. Scott also showed me an emergency room scenario which could be adjusted to become a maternal or baby emergency, supporting students to learn about heart monitors and resuscitation. The other thing that can be developed is scenarios based around the one-to-one communication that midwives do with women such as assessment and booking.

    The thing that particularly struck me was that the scenarios were not run by robots as I expected, but by real people (instructors) who 'sat' behind the avatars. This has interesting implications for staffing. I am also not sure how one would manage the 'sharing' of the resource with people who are not directly involved with the project.

    Wellington workshop
    The first real job I have as lead educator is to attend a three-day workshop in Wellington next week. I will be expected to present a brief overview of our proposal and provide some visual aids that will give background information to the other members of the SLENZ team.

    Facing a challenge
    This will be a challenge and steep learning curve for me because Second Life is not my favored online environment. However, I am thrilled that this project has been chosen and honored to be lead educator. And I am looking forward to working with midwives at other institutions on this incredibly innovative project, as well as the SLENZ team.

    My own personal learning goals:
    • have a better understanding of how SL works, both practically and pedagogically
    • increase my practical SL skills
    • increase my learning/teaching design, implementation and evaluation skills
    • learn how to build SL artifacts
    • become a SL mentor
    • increase my project management skills such as communication, time management and collaboration management
    • lead and submit publications

    Do you have any experience of Second Life? What tips or ideas would you pass on?


    Sarah Stewart said...

    Have you ever been into SL, Pam? You'd be impressed with the PPH scenario.

    Sarah Stewart said...

    Next time I hear of an event in SL that might interest you, I'll give you a buzz & take you there.

    Natalie said...

    This looks like a really interesting project Sarah. I've had a number of discussions with colleagues in other medical schools about Second Life and it seems many feel the jury is still out on how useful it is in health professions education and whether it had any impact on student learning outcomes. I have colleagues working in midwifery and obs & gynae and will be interested to hear how things progress. All the best with the project.

    Sarah Stewart said...

    @ Natalie I have to admit I'm not 100% sold which is one of the reasons this project was chosen-to try & totally convince Sarah. But I do see its potential and am very excited about putting it to the test.

    Anonymous said...

    Dear Sarah,
    Interstingly, I'm in the process of setting up an educational virtual primary care centre for training of medical students, doctors in training. I'm hoping to have a pilot up and running mid January. We've been working on it for a while now but are very excited about the potential of this for medical students, doctors, nurses etc.. We have a very good programmer and SL builder who are creating this but it's getting the organisation of the data right which is the most important part.I'd be happy to share my experiences on this if you need any extra input.



    Sarah Stewart said...

    Hi Simon, would love to keep in touch and compare data/experiences. I'll be blogging about my project as we go, so keep an eye here for the next few months.