Hugh Pickens writes "Discover Magazine reports that although medical simulations have been around for a long time, medical schools like Imperial College London are starting to use virtual hospitals in Second Life so students can learn their way around an O.R. before they enter the real thing. The students can also test their knowledge in the Virtual Respiratory Ward by interviewing patient avatars, ordering tests, diagnosing problems, and recommending treatment. 'The real innovation in SL clinical simulations is that they bring people together in a clinical space — you are standing next to an avatar who is a real patient, and the doctor avatar to your right is a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and the nurse to your left is at the University of Pennsylvania hospital,' says John Lester, the Education and Healthcare Market Developer at Linden Labs. The most significant benefit of SL training may be the cost. Real-life training facilities require thousands, and sometimes millions of dollars to build and maintain, while SL simulation rooms can be created for minimal costs, and accessed from anywhere in the world for the price of an internet connection. SL can also expose students to situations that a standard academic program can't duplicate: 'You can take risks that aren't safe in the real world and teach more complex subjects in three dimensions,' says Colleen Lin. 'When you're resuscitating a dummy in real life, it looks like a dummy. But you can program an avatar to look like it's choking or having a heart attack, and it looks more real to the student responsible for resuscitating it.'"