Learning Spaces Designed for the Future of Nursing

UF Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Innovation and Learning Lab

Real-world nursing challenges—from the safety of the lab

How can UF better train the nurses of tomorrow? Answering that question was at the core of the University’s initiative to create a state-of-the-art facility that gives nursing students the opportunity to experience “real-life” clinical scenarios. In the Innovation and Learning Lab, students practice skills and critical thinking within simulated environments. In this setting, it’s safe to make — and learn from — your mistakes. Learning via these simulations builds confident and skillful nurses, ready from day one to deliver expert, compassionate patient care.

In collaboration with the University of Florida’s College of Nursing, we transformed a 5,639-square-foot space into a cutting-edge simulation and learning lab for modern, experiential nursing education. With rapidly eclipsing medical technology and equipment, medical-centric learning facilities must be change-ready to anticipate iterative transformations in the future. Working closely with Anna M. McDaniel, Dean of the College of Nursing, we developed a thoughtful renovation plan that not only meets the current program’s needs; but also offers flexible design solutions to accommodate artificial intelligence and virtual reality learning adaptations in the future.

Project Owner

UF College of Nursing


Gainesville, FL

Completion Date

November 2020

Project Size

6,000 SF



Delivery Method

Design Build


Affiliated Engineers, Inc.

Photo Credit: Jesse S. Jones / University of Florida

Photo Credit: Jesse S. Jones / University of Florida

Located in UF’s Health Professions, Nursing & Pharmacy Building, the Innovation and Learning Lab houses seven simulation rooms where students practice a range of skills — from maintaining patient comfort and hygiene to performing technical procedures such as surgery preparation or intubation.

The lab also contains a prep room, a control and observation room with views into all simulation rooms, and a debriefing room where students receive instruction, mentoring, and observation. A large, adaptable gathering space, known as the Innovation Studio, is available for lectures and learning opportunities across various subjects and medical specialties. As healthcare and clinical practices evolve, the training of skilled nursing requires an interdisciplinary knowledge base. The Innovation Studio provides a space for research/practice opportunities, to encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration across disciplines.

“The facility we had was woefully outdated. In particular, we wanted to use simulation to replicate real-world clinical practices in a facility that didn’t support what we were trying to do. Now it works very well, and the space is beautiful.”

Anna McDaniel, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dean And Linda Harman Aiken Professor

Innovation and Learning Lab

Photo Credit: Jesse S. Jones / University of Florida

A Lab That Morphs to Meet Student Needs

As a high-tech learning environment filled with complex technological equipment, the Innovation and Learning Lab required a plan to support miles of wires and cables. The layout needed to facilitate flow and ensure that doorways and hallways are wide enough to allow large equipment to pass through. Storage solutions address accessibility and make efficient use of limited space.

Rather than use an accordion partition, we employed a wall that retracts into the ceiling to allow the room to scale — an inventive solution that functions beautifully without compromising the Lab’s aesthetics.

Innovation and Learning Lab

Photo Credit: Jesse S. Jones / University of Florida

Innovation and Learning Lab

Photo Credit: Jesse S. Jones / University of Florida

“The big gathering space, the Innovation Studio, had specific power requirements, as well as specific needs for window shading to darken the room for presentations, and for a moveable wall that would allow for dividing the room into two spaces when desired.”

Yenisley Lopez, Designer and Project Manager at Walker Architects

Innovation and Learning Lab

Photo Credit: Jesse S. Jones / University of Florida

Function, Flexibility, Welcoming

While the design of the facility emphasizes function and flexibility, the Innovation and Learning Lab also reveals a thoughtful use of materials and color, creating a welcoming atmosphere and a nod to the University's branding. The University of Florida’s signature orange and blue are accented throughout the space, amongst a neutral palette of soft shades of gray and off-white. The accent colors add contrast and visual interest to the space. Warm wood tones are incorporated into the space within the cabinetry and doors. The effect is crisp, clean, and welcoming. 

“This new, advanced space is so important to our mission. Walker did an amazing job creating a space aligned with our needs — and it was on time and under budget.”

Anna McDaniel, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dean And Linda Harman Aiken Professor 

Innovation and Learning Lab

Photo Credit: Jesse S. Jones / University of Florida

Innovation and Learning Lab

Photo Credit: Jesse S. Jones / University of Florida

Video Credit: Chris Bilowich / University of Florida College of Medicine

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