Smoking Cessation Medical Training in Second Life

The first of Cease Smoking Today (CS2Day)’s three-event, Smoking Cessation Continuing Medical Education (CME) workshop program took place on May 18th, 2011.  But the healthcare providers attending this CME workshop didn’t have to drive or get on a plane in order to obtain their CME credit. From the comfort of their offices or living room couches, they fired up their computers and joined the workshop in the virtual world of Second Life.

The program consists of three, two-hour, successive events (May 18, 25, and June 1) where participants attend and interact as avatars in this immersive, 3D virtual world.  Intended for healthcare professionals (family medicine doctors, nurse practitioners, and residents), this CME program focuses on the technique of motivational interviewing to help HCPs help their patients to stop smoking.

At this first kick-off event, participants were given an overview of the Motivational Interviewing (MI) technique from the workshop’s facilitators, Dr. Jay Lee and Dr. Suzanne Mitchell.  There were 34 attendees at the session coming into the virtual world from all over the United States (with one attendee from Indonesia, where it was 5:00 a.m.!).  The overview focused on the MI skills of rolling with resistance, expressing empathy, avoiding argumentation, developing discrepancy, and supporting self efficacy.  The session slides are archived here.

The program facilitators enlivened their talk with a few intriguing, virtual world simulated effects.  In this photo you can see Jay Lee demonstrating how many cigarettes a smoker with a pack-a-day habit would smoke in one year.

How many cigarettes would you smoke in a year with a pack-a-day habit?

And in this photo you can see Suzanne Mitchell demonstrating the significance and impact of issue and relational resistance.  These unique effects demonstrate the high visual impact offered by the virtual world  – seeing what you might only imagine in your mind’s eye as a metaphor or an explanation.

The distinction between "issue" resistance and "relationship" resistance.

In addition to the special effects, Suzanne and Jay used the local chat function to full advantage. Throughout their talk, they posed questions to the healthcare providers, asking them to type their answers in local chat. The HCPs quickly caught onto the value of the local chat stream, not only giving feedback to the speakers but also commenting on each other’s thoughts and opinions and connecting with each other.

The virtual world offers an interesting alternative to standard face-to-face continuing medical education.  Virtual world settings provide constructivist and connective approaches to learning where participants can interact, simulate, role-play, and reflect with their colleagues and instructors in a cooperative and context-rich environment from the comfort of their own homes.


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