This presentation covers the creation and use of the University of Nottingham's Virtual Maternity Ward in Second Life. It was created by Colleen McCants, (artist, builder) and delivered at the Innovative Research in Virtual Worlds 2011 conference in Coventry in conjunction with Jenny Bailey (midwife) and Fay Cross (programmer). Jenny Bailey has recently been nominated for a Royal College of Midwives award for her work on the VMU.
In November 2009, the IS Learning Technology Section and the Academic Division of Midwifery at the University of Nottingham began construction on a Virtual Maternity Unit (VMU) on the University of Nottingham's web campus in Second Life. In the Summer of 2010, a small group of midwifery students and educator peers took part in the pilot, and in March 2011 it began to be used by first year midwifery students on a voluntary basis. The potential benefits of immersive learning and storytelling role-play in Second Life and other virtual environments are being explored by many healthcare educators, but the implementation of the physical and interactive design varies according to the learning objectives and collaborator skill sets. The VMU was not the first Higher Educational midwifery sim to be developed, as it was created in parallel with the Second Life Education New Zealand project, (SLENZ), which was further along on the development timeline.
Midwifery education traditionally relies on sharing information by narrative means, but students can find 'real life' role play situations awkward. The Virtual Maternity Unit enables students to immerse themselves, with a certain degree of anonymity, in the role of midwife, with the teacher in the role of a woman in labour. Through being involved in a narrative over which they have choices in care and support, the student midwives can draw on their first-year training and put it into a meaningful context, learning from mistakes and reviewing the scenario afterwards with the midwife-educator. Immersion is enabled by familiar equipment and facilities, and documentation is modeled on real paperwork and sample birth plans. The teacher is able to guide the scenario by controlling feedback such as temperature, blood pressure and stage of labour via the pregnant mother's HUD, (Heads Up Display). The timescale can also be compressed to encompass a normal series of birth events. Because midwifery entails duty of care over mother and baby, student midwives must learn to communicate well, respond appropriately and act decisively, ensuring the safety and well-being of all. The VMU provides a safe environment in which to practice doing so; one in which they can become accustomed to thinking on their feet, yet have freedom to explore and question. At present, the VMU is being used in midwife educator-led sessions, taking place several times weekly, with more sessions held on our Derby campus. Role-play in the VMU is considered a useful addition to training and experience on the real-life war