Midwifery, Birthing and Second Life

birthing-unit-aug2009 For the past couple of years I’ve been aware of the work going on in New Zealand with midwifery training and Second Life, mostly thanks to the updates over at SLENZ.

Machinima maker Pooky Amsterdam dropped me a line about a film she’s helped produce that explains the role of Te Wāhi Whānau – The Birth Place in Second Life. The lead educator on the project is Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky), with SLENZ Project co-leader, Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel) and Scotland based Russell (Rosco) Boyd also heavily involved.

After walking through the actual build and after watching the machinima, the main impression I’m left with is how midwife-driven this project is. What I mean by that, is the birthing unit is so much better than most in existence in the real world. As a Registered Nurse (but not a midwife), I’ve witnessed half a dozen births and even from that limited perspective I can totally appreciate how much better a birthing environment Te Wāhi Whānau is compared to even the better hospital-based birthing units. As a clinical simulation for midwives, I can see its power as a key adjunct to lab-based learning and practicums. The gamut from initial assessment of labour to initiating breastfeeding and perineal care is covered in a comprehensive way.

Take some time to watch the 6-minute machinima:

The SLENZ team deserve major kudos for their work over the past couple of years – they’re some of the true pioneers in virtual worlds and health.

You can of course view the birthing unit for yourself here.

14 thoughts on “Midwifery, Birthing and Second Life

  1. clare atkins

    Thanks so much for your kind words. The SLENZ team is delighted that the Birthing Unit and the associated learning experiences appear to be so well received 🙂 The journey has been very challenging but the end product certainly seems to be worth it as the students too are testifying. You might like to know that all the SLENZ work is covered by a Creative Commons attribution licence and that towards the end of this year we will be happy to provide for free, to anyone who would like it, a complete package which will include not only the Birthing Unit itself but all the accessories such as animations, shapes and HUDs. All this is possible due to the great NZ government funding that has supported the project as well as the hard and incredible work of the SLENZ team 🙂 Thanks again – Dr Clare Atkins/Arwenna Stardust – SLENZ project leader (SL).

  2. Brendan


    Where is the male partner of the woman giving birth?

    You know, men are part of the birthing experience and to not have them portrayed in a positive light during this amazing event is typical.

  3. Sarah Stewart

    Thank you very much for your review – I was really thrilled to see that you felt the project was ‘midwifery-driven’ – that was how we designed it and wanted it to be. My dream is that this resource will be taken up by midwifery educators throughout the world and it will be the beginning of an international collaboration.

    best wishes, Sarah Stewart/Petal Stransky Lead Midwifery Educator – SLENZ project

  4. Aaron Griffiths

    In response to Brendan’s comment:

    It was always intended to have a partner present in the initial planning of the build and until only weeks out that intention was still present. Unfortunately in the end to meet the deadlines set by the fact the students were coming into the build on a specific date, the scripting, animations and building required to have a partner (of whatever gender) present in the scenarios just did not happen. This was a very complex build designed out of very little in terms of actual specifics, reassessed and recreated on an ongoing basis through discussion with the educators. The build was divided into stages so that at least, even if the ideal could not be developed within the budgeted hours we would have finished stages at points throughout the process which could be considered complete resources.

    Stage one therefore gave us the actual unit, created as an immersive experience of an “ideal birthing unit” complete with notecards and links out to information supporting the theory associated with the design. Stage two (which we have reached) and as described in this article, steps the midwife through a normal birthing process in terms of her interactions with the mother from the first phone call into the unit through to the actual birth. The scenario goes beyond a simple role play of mother and midwife to include the numerous clinical requirements of the process such as blood pressure and temperature readings, preparation of medical equipment and medications, good practice requirements, e.g. use of sterile gloves in examination, washing of hands etc. Stage three was intended to extend the scenarios to include not only a partner (or whanau depending on ethnic considerations) but more difficult births such as postpartum hemorrhage, i.e. birth scenarios typically not experienced by midwifery trainees. As I mentioned above deadlines and budget restrictions (read as we used it all up by the end of stage two) have meant that further developments will not happen under the banner of this project funding. That is not to say they wont happen, as the resources provided are creative commons and will be packaged as with as much instruction as I have time to develop so that others may carry on taking the scenarios further.

    And just to give some perspective to the build requirements (all originals to allow for full permissions under a creative commons license):
    Objects – over 2600; Scripts – over 250 (not including HUDs worm by mother and midwife); Animations and poses – 16; Textures – over 100.

    Aaron Griffiths [SL: Isa Goodman] – Lead Developer The SLENZ Project

  5. Lowell Cremorne Post author

    Thanks so much for your responses Sarah, Clare and Aaron in particular.

    Aaron – thanks so much for the detailed description of what has been involved in the project and for explaining the issue Brendan raised – it makes for fascinating reading.

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  7. Aaron Griffiths

    One further response if I may:

    Just because a partner isn’t scripted into the build in terms of being animated, tracked by the HUDs or given a specific script to follow it doesn’t mean a partner could not usefully take part in the scenario.

    The build as it stands does not preclude a partner taking part in verbal communications, of playing anxious to the midwife’s calm, of creating situations that a midwife may have to face in dealing with other people present at the birth. It is my hope that the students themselves respond to some of these possibilities and take on role-playing the “extras” (said with tongue in cheek) out of their own interest in extending the learning opportunity themselves.

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  9. PixelPolicy

    Fascinating article, I’ll use a bit of it as the basis for a research post on my blog, Pixels and Policy, in the morning. I’m fascinated by the potential use of this as a supplement to actual in-hospital delivery training, and what that means for the larger health community.

  10. Janis Childs

    This is a wonderful site and has helped me think of so many things as I attempt to set up an area for students where I teach. I am writing for a very small grant and am having difficulty identifying costs. Not so much the cost of the island itself, but to build and create resources for students. Any thoughts, suggestions would be appreciated!
    Nice job!

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  13. lauren

    Ive never tryed Second life but this sounds interesting. Apart from the shape of the womans belly being strange, she didnt have a companion, which is more common than not. Plus, what happens if this woman has a complication? No C-Sections? No Epidural? No techniqual proceedures where really shown.. Maybe its because its more focused on the comunitcation, comfort and simpathy side of midwifery but these things would make it more realistic and be more educational.

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