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The application of new technologies to the education of health professionals is both a challenge and a necessity. Virtual worlds are increasingly being explored as a support for education. Aim: The aim of this work is to study the suitability of Second Life (SL) as an educational tool for primary healthcare professionals.
Design: Qualitative study of accredited clinical sessions in SL included in a continuing professional development (CPD) programme for primary healthcare professionals. Location: Zaragoza I Zone Family and Community Medicine Education Unit (EU) and 9 health centres operated by the Aragonese Health Service, Aragon, Spain. Method: The EU held two training workshops in SL for 16 healthcare professionals from 9 health centres by means of two workshops, and requested them to facilitate clinical sessions in SL. Attendance was open to all personnel from the EU and the 9 health centres. After a trail period of clinical sessions held at 5 health centres between May and November 2010, the CPD-accredited clinical sessions were held at 9 health centres between February and April 2011. Participants: 76 healthcare professionals attended the CPD-accredited clinical sessions in SL. Main measurements: Questionnaire on completion of the clinical sessions.
Response rate: 42-100%. Questionnaire completed by each health centre on completion of the CPD-accredited clinical sessions: Access to SL: 2 centres were unable to gain access. Sound problems: 0% (0/9). Image problems: 0% (0/9). Voice/text chat: used in 100% (10/9); 0 incidents. Questionnaire completed by participants in the CPD-accredited clinical sessions: Preference for SL as a tool: 100% (76/76). Strengths of this method: 74% (56/76) considered it eliminated the need to travel; 68% (52/76) believed it made more effective use of educational resources; and 47% (36/76) considered it improved accessibility. Weaknesses: 91% (69/76) experienced technical problems, while; 9% (7/76) thought it was impersonal and with little interaction. 65.79% (50/76) believed it was better than other distance learning methods and 38.16% (29/76) believed it was better than face-to-face learning.
SL is a tool that allows educational activities to be designed that involve a number of health centres in different geographical locations, consequently eliminating the need to travel and making more effective use of educational resources.