Carlow University’s Celtic Simulation Center for Innovative Learning (CSCIL) was looking to improve their high-fidelity simulation labs and upgrade the technology for the labs. At the same time, CSCIL was looking to expand their bed count in their traditional nursing skills lab to reduce the number of students practicing at each bed.
CSCIL took over the entire floor below them, doubling the amount of program area. IKM started the design process by studying the patterns and behaviors of both faculty and students in the existing space. We observed staff in the control room during a simulation exercise, identified locations where students gathered during down times, and witnessed instructors demonstrating in the skill lab. A group workshop was held with the Sophomore class in which we asked them to walk us through a day in the life of a nursing student. Through this process, we also discovered a need for a student lounge in this area.
Beyond the functional layout, the goal was for this project to be the showcase of the College of Health and Wellness. The simulation labs are always a stop on recruiting and fundraising tours. First impression is particularly important. Through architectural interpretation of the vibrant school colors, we created an entry sequence that speaks to the high-tech philosophy of the program.
Differing degrees of transparency where also utilized throughout the renovation. The control room is the heart of the simulation operations. The glazed storefront allows ample view into this space providing purposeful understanding to students and visitors alike. Slivers of floor to ceiling glazing give a glimpse into the labs as well. Student waiting lounge is another space fully visible from the corridor. Conversely, the debriefing room and the skills refinement lab offer complete privacy. All significant spaces are acoustically isolated from one another just as in professional healthcare environments.
Designing educational space to simulate the real work environment of a healthcare operation was a unique challenge. Students interact with robotic mannequins in these spaces. The students need to be able to complete all of the typical protocols they will perform in the clinical environment. Students can wash hands, interpret data on the patient monitors, provide treatment, and chart data in these rooms. Even something like pulling the curtain for privacy is a behavior that needs to become intuitive.
When IKM met with the Sophomore students to track a “day in the life,” there was unanimous sentiment that initial performance in the real clinical environment is downright frightening. Consistent and repeated practice of the nursing skills is the primary approach to alleviating those fears and building confidence. The renovation greatly improves the learning environment needed to practice. At the university level, the renovated space provides a literal demonstration of CSCIL’s philosophy and goals for guiding the future of healthcare education.