UF Nursing opens leading-edge simulation and learning lab

Courtesy of UF Health


University of Florida College of Nursing students and faculty can now hone their skills using the latest technology in patient safety and learning assessment following an extensive overhaul of teaching space at the college to build a leading-edge simulation and learning center.

The renovation to create the 5,639-square-foot Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Innovation and Learning Laboratory at the Iona M. Pettengill Nursing Resource Center was completed in late December and is now in full use by College of Nursing students for the spring semester. With a total cost of $2.9 million for construction and state-of-the-art equipment, the Innovation and Learning Lab was made possible through lead gifts from the Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Charitable Foundation and the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation.

“The opening of the Kirbo Innovation and Learning Lab is the culmination of years of extensive planning and development of crucial experiential learning opportunities,” said Anna M. McDaniel, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, College of Nursing dean and the Linda Harman Aiken Professor. “We are so grateful to the Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Charitable Foundation and the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation for the generous financial support to create this new, advanced space.’’

Senior leaders at UF Health noted that the renovated facility is coming online at a critical yet opportune moment for health care services throughout the nation and the world.

“Never has the need for well-prepared nurses been more apparent than now throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “With the Kirbo Innovation and Learning Lab, the College of Nursing is continuing to display itself as a leader on the forefront of education, research, and health care delivery. The implications of the simulation and learning center will reverberate for generations through the delivery of superior patient care and groundbreaking discoveries of future graduates.”

The previous Iona M. Pettengill Nursing Resource Center was designed in a “ward” style when the Health Professions, Nursing and Pharmacy building was opened in 2003. In light of scientific advances and a move toward pedagogical learning, the need became more apparent for upgraded simulation, virtual reality, and a designated debriefing space.

High-fidelity simulation provides a lifelike learning experience in a safe environment, minimizing risks to patients and students. As the demand for clinical experience continues to grow, the role of simulation in nursing education is increasingly crucial to developing humanistic, skilled, disciplined, and authoritative nursing professionals. The Kirbo Innovation and Learning Lab ensures these demands are met at the College of Nursing.

The new lab consists of seven simulation rooms that mimic environments students will encounter when they enter practice. There are five patient care rooms for fundamental-based simulations like mobility, patient comfort, hygiene, and basic-to-complex medical-surgical care. The remaining two rooms are larger procedure rooms for more complex simulations, like labor and delivery, newborn assessment, and carrying out life-saving procedures.

A central control room houses all of the equipment that provides simulation scenarios, videotaping, and other learning tools. The prep room holds all medications and supplies and provides a space for students to practice preparing medications.

An important component of nursing education is that each student receives timely, relevant assessments of their progress. In the debrief room, faculty and students will meet, either one-on-one or in small groups, to reflect on their simulation experiences and clinical performance.

The innovation studio is a multipurpose room for collaboration on interdisciplinary projects that will advance current and future health care environments, improve patient safety through the invention and testing of new products, and create synergy across the research-practice divide.

The skills lab allows ample space for students to practice health assessments and fundamental nursing techniques that are the basis and foundation for them to progress throughout their education. The open space of the room also makes it available for events and informal activities.

Martha Sawyer, a trustee of the Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Charitable Foundation, said developing quality nurses and other medical professionals is critical to the foundation’s objective of improving community health care and, thus, lifting individuals out of poverty.

“Over the last 37 years, the foundation has funded endowments that improve the quality of the UF nursing faculty and curriculum and provide scholarships to a diverse group of UF nursing students,” Sawyer said. “The Kirbo Innovation and Learning Lab is the culmination of all of these efforts. We believe it will be instrumental in assuring UF will continue to produce excellent nursing professionals in the years to come.”

The state-of-the-art educational facility will prepare the next generation of nurses to rise to the challenges of tomorrow’s medical landscape.

“Gator Nurses are known for being well-prepared, critical thinkers,’’ McDaniel said. “Now, students and faculty alike can take advantage of the opportunity to expand their skills and collaborate on innovative, interdisciplinary projects.”

The Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Innovation and Learning Laboratory is located on the first floor of the Health Professions, Nursing and Pharmacy Building, part of UF Health, the university’s academic health center. It was designed by Walker Architects and constructed by Scorpio.