Virtual Paramedic Training Saves Real Lives

Stgeorges-paramedic-500px For the nearly 3 million people who call Chicago home, speeding ambulances and quick-thinking paramedics are nothing new.

But the next paramedic that receives an emergency call may be one of a special group: those that received crisis response training through Second Life.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at how one Chicago hospital is turning to cost-effective virtual environments to keep first responders at the peak of their skills.

Responding to Virtual Emergencies

Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital is now implementing virtual worlds as a training tool for its critical response team, reports the Official Second Life Blog. From the article:

Children’s Memorial Hospital approached Centrax, a Chicago e-learning company and Second Life Solution Provider,
to create a mirror image, or an exact replica, of their hospital so
that they could train everyone through a variety of scenarios—all
safely behind a computer.

The crisis program runs responders through a variety of near-apocalyptic situations, including a suspicious package inside the hospital, multi-ward evacuations, and handling a large influx of patients from a potential mass disaster.

Given Second Life's user-unfriendly interface, it's impressive that Metaverse newbies were able to master the program within four hours, reporting back favorably on how the virtual test-runs enhanced their problem-solving and critical thinking skills. 

St. George's Hospital in England ran a similar crisis simulation in 2008, where problems included assessing patient injury, deciding on a correct course of action, and administering on-site medical care. The St. George's program participants also reported back favorably, lending support to the idea that virtual training may actually translate into real-world skill improvement.

Critical Care Caveats

Despite the apparent optimism of hospital administrators, Pixels and Policy wonders about how much of a role virtual training should play in emergency response education. As a supplement to classroom and hands-on training it is certainly a welcome addition, but the idea that virtual training is equal to real-world training is, at this point, overly optimistic.

Until worlds like Second Life can implement adaptive A.I. in a way that realistically simulates patients suffering from a variety of injuries, virtual training would be best reserved as a "priming" tool for experienced responders looking to brush up on their fundamentals.

Using the Metaverse as a tool to hone already established emergency response skills seems like the safest and smarted step. Adaptability of the technology allows for medics to test their real-world experience against any number of catastrophic scenarios. But learning medical skills from a Second Life avatar? Not quite yet.