A New Time, A New Place: Emory Nursing Learning Center Opens

students stand outside the new Emory Nursing Learn-ing Center
BUILDING THE FUTURE: The new Emory Nursing Learning Center (ENLC) occupies four floors at 250 East Ponce, an eight-level office building constructed in 1962 in Decatur. Outside, “Emory Nursing” stands out in large blue letters. The sig-nage reflects the ties the School of Nursing and Emory Healthcare Nursing share around education, clinical practice, and research.

Some years back, it was clear that the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing had outgrown the building at 1520 Clifton Road.

There were so many students, one faculty member joked, they were stacked to the ceiling.

Students work in the The Simulation and Clinical Skills Labs at the ENLC

HIGH-TECH SIMULATION: The Simulation and Clinical Skills Labs at the ENLC are among the largest and most advanced in Georgia. Simulations are one of the key parts of nursing edu-cation, and the learning center will provide ample space and employ the latest technology to let students and instructors work through real-life scenarios, rang-ing from childbirth to geriatric care to disaster drills.

It was a healthy problem to have, a sign of the school’s record growth in enrollment, degree programs, and research funding. Along with success came greater national visibility. Emory has placed among the top nurs-ing schools ranked by US News & World Report since 2017 and the National Institutes of Health since 2015. Greater visibility brought more students, now almost triple the number in 2012. “We had become one of the top-ranked nursing schools in the nation,” says School of Nursing Dean Linda McCauley. “Yet we had inadequate space for enrollment. We could all feel it.”

For some time, McCauley and Sharon Pappas, chief nurse executive for Emory Healthcare, had dreamed of a new interpro-fessional education building with simulation, clinical skills, and classroom space for nursing, medical, and physical therapy students.

The idea had its proponents but never gained the traction needed to move forward. McCauley looked to renovate existing space somewhere on the Emory campus, but the buildings she considered were either too small or slated for use by other schools and units.

McCauley formed a team to explore purchase and leasing options around Atlanta. They looked at several properties, but nothing clicked until they toured 250 East Ponce, an eight-story office building in Decatur, a short drive or bus ride from Emory. Four lower floors were coming up for lease when team members toured the space.

a shot of the Learning Center lobby

STAIRWAY TO LEARNING: The ENLC’s lobby, known as the student commons, is an open, light-filled space intended to make everyone who enters feel welcome.

“It was a wreck,” says McCauley of the basement, or terrace level, which still had a 1962 bank vault from the building’s original tenant. But the terrace, first, second, and fourth floors had plenty of room. In her mind’s eye, McCauley could see a spacious state-of the-art simulation lab for students of all levels, class-room and study space, and an inviting lobby. Students could walk to Decatur restaurants, shops, a hotel, and a rapid rail station nearby.

Less than three years later, the school officially opened the Emory Nursing Learning Center (ENLC) at the 250 East Ponce location. The $20.6 million, seventy-thou-sand-square-foot center was designed to prepare nursing students to engage in interactive technology and experiential learn-ing environments that will enable them to be the next generation of nurse leaders.

student work together at a white board

INNOVATION HUB: Located at the top of the staircase on the second floor, the Innovation Hub is a place “where ideas will collide,” says associate dean Beth Ann Swan, executive director of the ENLC. The hub features glass walls, white boards, and movable furniture designed to ebb and flow with the ideas. such as artificial intelligence programs and patient care devices, that take shape there.

The new space at 250 East Ponce features high-tech simulation and skills labs, where students learn to care for patients of all ages in hospital, clinic, and home apartment settings. It also offers classrooms, study spaces, a student lounge, faculty touchdown space, a telehealth office, and the Innovation Hub, where students and faculty can develop and test ideas to improve patient care and nursing workflow systems.  

Pappas and other Emory Healthcare nurses helped conceive the design and build-out of the simulation, clinical skills, and other spaces at the learning center.

Currently, Pappas is looking to fill one thousand nursing positions across the Emory Healthcare system. Many of the open posts were held by nurses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The learning center can provide students with the clinical and leadership skills that Pappas and her staff look for when hiring nurses to fill those vacancies.

Read more about the Emory Nursing Learning Center in Emory Nursing Magazine.

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