A new report in the latest New Journal of the American College of Surgeons claims that a Second Life simulation helped assess surgical residents effectively. Specifically:
Using an online virtual world called Second Life™, a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Imperial College, St. Mary’s Hospital developed three virtual reality environments—a standard hospital ward, an intensive care unit, and an emergency room... “What we have shown scientifically is that these three simulated scenarios at the three different levels are appropriate for the assessment of interns, junior residents, and senior residents and their management of these cases,” [report co-author Dr. Rajesh] Aggarwal explained.
The full report is here. The study was conducted at Imperial College, which has actually been using Second Life as a research tool for years, so it's quite possible the study's success stems from the students and faculty already being familiar with SL. I'm skeptical this RL application of Second Life could scale to other research facilities less familiar with the platform -- unless, of course, it was integrated with something like the Oculus Rift.