1. Perry, William MA, RN

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The Internet has brought the spirit of global communication and collaboration to nurses and other healthcare professionals in ways never before thought possible. These resources are offered to expand your opportunities for discussion, reference, education, and research.


Have you ever visited Second Life? Second Life ( is a three-dimensional (3D) computer-based environment where individuals create a persona called an avatar and interact with other avatars in real time. Depending on the area you visit, it can be fascinating, frivolous, or frustrating, and often, it is all three.


There is a small but growing body of literature describing the academic and clinical uses of Second Life. CINAHL lists 58 citations when searching for "second life," and 18 of those were published in 2009. Several academic institutions have created a virtual campus where courses including lecture, discussion, and laboratory activities may be taken for credit. Duke University has an interesting video of their Nursing Program on YouTube at, and John Miller's video of training at Tacoma Community College is at


When introducing new nursing students to this medium, it is rare to find one or two in a class of 30 who already have an account. After a quick introduction, many cannot see any possible clinical use for the application. It is not an easy application to just jump in and explore. While creating a free account is very easy, bandwidth and hardware requirements can make it either a pleasant or painful experience. While all the computers in our house meet the minimal system requirements ( and we have broadband Internet access, it can be very slow and clumsy feeling on the less powerful machines.


An electronic journal, The Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, published an entire issue on "3D Virtual Worlds for Health and Healthcare" ( Social interaction for support groups, health education, and simulation are areas where applications like Second Life seem to have a great deal of potential. The Journal of Medical Internet Research has also published many articles relating to similar projects and experiences (


There are alternatives to Second Life, such as Open-Life ( and Bertalan Mesko, a Hungarian physician and prolific writer about Web 2.0 applications, has described a project under development called Visuland that will run on less powerful computers ( It seems to be at a fairly early stage, but entering and moving about were very quick even on an older machine.


Virtual worlds exist for children, teenagers, and adults. The sites vary from free to fee based and vary also in their degree of graphic sophistication and required hardware ( Sites may be oriented to games, social networking, education, or any combination of elements. Even businesses are bringing 3D virtual environments into everyday use for meetings ( The ability of an avatar to interact with coworkers brings an additional dimension different from current collaboration tools.


While these applications may be fun, fascinating, frivolous, or frustrating, there is ongoing work to make them truly functional tools for collaboration and communication.


Check them out yourself and see how virtual worlds might contribute to your reality.


William Perry, MA, RN