UCF’s College of Nursing would be able to graduate more nurses and nursing faculty, helping to combat the nation’s critical nursing shortage while fostering more innovation and collaboration with a new building at Lake Nona, Florida.

The Board of Trustees this week approved the use of state allocated funds to begin the planning and design phase for the projected 90,000-square-foot College of Nursing building at the UCF Academic Health Sciences Campus in Lake Nona. With state allocated funding estimated to pay for less than half of the new building, the college will launch a strategic fundraising campaign to secure private support for the project.

“UCF’s College of Nursing leverages the innovation and collaboration our university is known for to educate the nurse caregivers, researchers and educators of tomorrow,” says President Alexander N. Cartwright. “We are incredibly excited to have our nursing students join our Academic Health Sciences Center in Lake Nona, and we look forward to increasing the excellence of our programs and our impact in our community through the partnerships and opportunities that this move will enable.”

“UCF’s College of Nursing leverages the innovation and collaboration our university is known for to educate the nurse caregivers, researchers and educators of tomorrow.” — Alexander N. Cartwright, UCF president

“This is an incredible milestone for UCF, and we’re laser focused on moving from vision to reality,” says Mary Lou Sole, dean of the College of Nursing. “This is a transformational project that has wide-reaching impact for our region, and we will need the support of our entire community to help us reach our goal of educating more Knight nurses to positively impact more patient lives, and guide 21st century healthcare.”

The new home of the College of Nursing will sit on the 50-acre property already home to the UCF College of Medicine and the UCF Lake Nona Hospital. Preliminary plans include classrooms as well as state-of-the-art learning labs for health assessment, essential skills and virtual reality located in an expanded space for the College of Nursing’s accredited Simulation, Technology, Innovation & Modeling Center, an international leader in providing high-quality simulation experiences to prepare students for clinical practice.

The design also calls for new research space — to include wet and dry labs — along with a host of student study spaces. When the new building is complete, the College of Nursing will relocate from its current location in Research Park and will have almost double its current square footage.

The location at the UCF Academic Health Sciences Campus will offer students and faculty new opportunities for collaboration and enhanced learning and research experiences.

An artist rendering of a skills lab inside the future UCF College of Nursing Building in Lake Nona, Florida.

“Our longstanding partnerships with the healthcare providers in our region have been invaluable,” says Sole. “Being physically situated in this hub of healthcare innovation is going to offer a host of new possibilities for teaching and research.”

The new building is a much-needed investment for the region and the state, both of which are facing a critical healthcare worker shortage. The Florida Hospital Association projects a shortage of 37,400 RNs by 2035 and has actively advocated to increase the supply of quality faculty and campus resources for nursing programs. The association estimates that an additional 2,300 RNs are needed to enter the workforce each year to address the projected state shortage.

The College of Nursing currently educates more than 2,900 undergraduate and graduate students and awards approximately 800 degrees annually. Enrollment has grown more than 240% since 2003. In the last five years, the college has been forced to decline admission to more than 860 qualified applicants due to physical capacity limits.

UCF already graduates the most newly licensed registered nurses annually than any other institution in the State University System, with approximately 260 Knight nurses entering the workforce each year. Once the building is complete and fully funded, the College of Nursing expects to increase enrollment for new nurses and future nurse educators, grow the number of existing UCF faculty, and ultimately graduate an additional 150 new nurses annually to enter the healthcare industry — primarily in Florida.

Approximately 85% of UCF nursing alumni live and work in Florida, and almost 60% live and work in the six-county Central Florida area.

UCF College of Nursing Dean Mary Lou Sole

“The community is growing,” says Sole, who notes that Florida’s population is rising at rapid rates that exceed the national average. “Our population is also aging, which is increasing demand on our healthcare systems. As a region, we need to be able to provide high quality, compassionate care to all of our residents who live here now and those coming here in the future.”

That’s where more Knight nurses will help. UCF’s nursing graduates are well prepared for clinical practice, consistently surpassing the national average on the licensure examination for RNs and nurse practitioners.

“As a region, we need to be able to provide high quality, compassionate care to all of our residents who live here now and those coming here in the future.” — Mary Lou Sole, UCF College of Nursing dean

With additional faculty, staff and space, the college will also grow enrollment capacity for its doctoral and master’s degree programs. These programs help educate more advanced practice providers, nurse leaders and executives, and nurse educators who will fuel the pipeline of nursing faculty, which is essential for combating the nursing shortage.

“The ripple effects that a nurse educator has on the profession and patient lives are immeasurable,” says Sole. “They teach and mentor countless nursing students, year after year, who then go out and care for patients, and they conduct invaluable research to impact the health of communities.”

The College of Nursing has been leading the charge in educating the next generation of nurses since 1979 and is ranked among the best in the nation. It is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and recently was one of nine programs worldwide – the only one in Florida – to receive an endorsement from the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning.

The Florida Legislature allocated $29 million to UCF during the 2022 legislative session for the new building. The total cost for the new building is estimated to be just under $64 million.

Once funding is secured and planning goals are met, the college will break ground on the new building, which is anticipated to open during the 2025-2026 academic year.