Innovation and Learning Laboratory

College of Nursing Focuses on Innovation in Nursing Education

noun | in·no·va·tion | \ˌinəˈvāSH(ə)n \ the introduction of something new a new idea, method, or device the action or process of introducing something new

synonyms: revolution, transformation, breakthrough


Students in the College of Medicine complete simulation exercises in the George Harrell Medical Education Center.

The University of Florida College of Nursing celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2016, a year spent reflecting upon, highlighting and celebrating the many accomplishments and the profound impact the college’s students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends have had throughout the years through caring, leading and inspiring.

While each celebrated gift, proud graduate, historic milestone and piece of groundbreaking research has left a footprint in the college’s history forever, 2017 turns the page towards blazing a trail for the future of nursing education through innovation initiatives aimed at bringingsimulation at the UF to new heights.

Nursing education is dynamically changing to meet health care needs, thus demanding new ideas, methods, devices {innovations}, to educate the next generation of nurses. Simulation is a teaching methodology to prepare nurses for practice across the continuum of care in today’s complex health care environment; it can take many forms, including human patient simulation using manikins and standardized patients, virtual and computer based simulations and simulation done to teach psychomotor skills.

Setting a standard of excellence when it comes to innovative education, having dynamic programs of research and creative approaches to practice are key components of the grand vision for the UF College of Nursing under Dean Anna M. McDaniel, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN.

Charging to the forefront of nursing education and being on the leading edgef simulation technology and student resources are guaranteed to be key cogs in the college’s next strategic plan, currently in the development phase. Simulation provides a rich learning opportunity for students to integrate theory with practice while making real-time clinical decisions in an environment that poses no risk to patients.

The college currently utilizes a dedicated space for simulation, the Pettengill Nursing Resource Center, or NRC, under the direction of NRC Teaching Laboratory Specialist Jenny Nanson, R.N., B.A., but McDaniel recognizes the need to continually advance the college’s educational model.

That’s why an expansive Innovation and Learning Laboratory will be part of the five-year strategic plan.

“Technology is absolutely amazing,” McDaniel said. “In all reality, how can we educate this next generation of nurses unless we offer them the very best? The very best is the whole continuum of simulation. The research is there, the literature supports it. Simulation works. It creates powerful, powerful learning.”

Interested in learning about you can support a state-of-the-art innovation laboratory at the College of Nursing? Contact Anna Harper at, call 352-273-6614 or give now!

Students in simulation exercise

Students in simulation exercise

Alongside Nanson in the Nursing Resource Center, Anita Stephen, M.S.N., R.N., C.N.L., clinical assistant professor, who is currently finishing her Ph.D. in instructional technology, will provide valuable simulation and clinical skills input as the college bolsters its advanced education curriculum.

“We have initiated developing the strategic plan for where we are going to go with our simulation in the college for the next five years,” McDaniel said. “In order to move forward with our advanced education, we need faculty development, simulation infrastructure and curriculum innovation. As outlined in our strategic plan, we will begin to work on faculty development for advanced simulation pedagogies and innovation in teaching starting this summer.”

The dream vision for the Innovation and Learning Laboratory?

A space that prepares nursing students for every conceivable clinical environment that encompasses the most advanced learning technologies available today; a flexible, learning-centered space that can accommodate both small and large group study and state-of-the-art simulation technology and audiovisual capabilities. The current Nursing Resource Center would be exhaustively renovated to create a 3,500 square-foot space to house high fidelity and avatar simulation as well as video interaction with debriefing capabilities.

“It’s not just technology,” McDaniel said. “It’s the way we teach in undergraduate programs. The new teaching and learning theories and concepts are telling us that when you teach clinical courses, you need different modalities of exposure. That includes real-life clients and simulation scenarios. All research evidence is showing us that in order to improve patient safety and student competency, you have to expose students to different modalities in their clinical education.”

Simulation provides a solution to the ever-growing shortage of clinical sites and faculty. In addition, simulation also provides the opportunity to create Interprofessional Education that nurses can learn alongside their peers in emergency medicine and surgery. It affords the opportunity for safe practice, to teach students how to synthesize certain knowledge through clinical reasoning, competency with interprofessional skills and competency with high-fidelity cases that students have a rare chance of being exposed to otherwise in a student role in the hospital.

“The most meaningful learning occurs with simulation,” Nanson expressed, “not at the bedside during interaction, but when students have the ability to go back and look at the video for feedback. Debriefing sometimes takes twice as long as simulation, because that is where the learning occurs.”

According to Nanson, whether students are experienced health care providers or new or graduating nurses, they love simulation and always want more.

“Our students are high performers,” she added.

You would be hard-pressed to find someone more passionate about simulation and helping the College of Nursing surge ahead with its innovative endeavors than Stephen.

“I just love simulation,” Stephen said. “I hear it all the time. Students will say, ‘I wish we had more of this, it helps us to remember.’ It would be extremely conducive to learning to have an expanded innovative resource center, a dedicated high-tech space with sound-proof rooms.”

Stephen has a reputation among nursing students for making simulation a fun learning environment in order to cut down on apprehension and nerves for B.S.N. students, and to get them acclimated to the clinical setting before seeing patients. Whether crafting different patient scenarios like an irate family member, coordinating a basic safety skills check off, or pulling a 1990s cell phone from her ‘sim bag’ of materials, Stephen’s creativity is value added to what has become one of the most valuable nurse education paradigms today.

Stephen will play a big role this summer in helping brainstorm ways for the college to incorporate more simulation into the undergraduate curriculum.

“I love simulation. The first time we were doing the safety check, we ‘killed’ our patient – the bed rail was not up,” senior B.S.N. student Brittany Jacquay said. “But because of that experience and getting to debrief on all the things we initially missed, now every time I go into a patient’s room, those are the first things I look for. I learned because we failed in a setting where it was safe to do so. Simulation is run so well like a real-life re-enactment. You receive the background and all of the reports on your ‘patient’ as if you would in a normal situation. The sim people are very real; they look and act real. Anita (Stephen) really makes it a fun learning environment for us.”

In its current form, the Nursing Resource Center offers an open-lab space for students who self-recognize the need to improve a skill, or practice a specific skill in advance of a skills check-off each semester. Faculty members can additionally identify weaknesses and recommend open lab time by coordinating with Garbutt and Nanson on certain remediation recommendations.

The Nursing Resource Center offers four manikins, dubbed sim man, sim mom, sim junior and sim newbie. All four manikins have realistic heart, lung and bowel sounds, talk and respond during simulation and react physiologically to medications.

“These manikins are so realistic, they can do everything but get out of the bed and walk,” Garbutt quipped.

Having the manikins as a resource offers exposure to valuable simulation. For example, experience with an acute diabetic patient, or a patient that goes into cardiac arrest, a normal laboring mom, maybe a complicated birth, or a newborn assessment on ‘sim newbie’ before students are out in the clinical setting doing an assessment on a real newborn baby.

“The more practice, the better you get,” one anonymous student provided on a College of Nursing simulation feedback survey this spring. “It gives you the freedom to try and fail without harm, which increases our confidence when approaching a patient in an actual clinical setting,” another student added.

A 2014 report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on innovation in clinical nursing education documented that the health care landscape in the United States is in the midst of a revolutionary change, and identified simulation and interprofessional education as two ways to innovate the clinical experience.

The future is innovation in education and simulation, and the College of Nursing has a vision to be at the forefront, where the best get better. Picture high-technology multi-purpose units that offer not only high-fidelity simulation, but psychiatric simulation, hospital informatics and more.

It will take time, dedication, planning, and gifts, to take resource-intensive simulation initiatives for the college from vision to fruition. But for a college that boasts the top-ranked Doctor of Nursing Practice program in the state, annually welcomes Bachelors of Science in Nursing classes with an average grade point average of 3.5 or higher and has more than 70 percent of its undergraduates continue on to graduate study within three years, the standard is excellence. Educating and producing competent nursing leaders is a top priority.

“It’s patient safety, and it’s the institute of medicine,” McDaniel concluded. “It’s all those pieces that show you physicians, nurses and all the healthcare disciplines have to collaborate together and start at the student level to learn these roles and be comfortable with one another so you can take the skills out to the practice setting. It impacts patient safety, it impacts patient satisfaction. Simulation is a win-win.”