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A Nurse’s Passion Inspires Innovative Approach to Nursing Education

Nursing News & ProgramsReal Nurses Real Stories

A Nurse’s Passion Inspires Innovative Approach to Nursing Education


Lori Lioce, DNP, FNP-BC, CHSOS, CHSE, FAANP, began her career as a dental hygienist. As she learned more and more about each of her patients and their overall health, she decided to make a change – she went back to school to become a nurse with the goal of improving health outcomes for as many patients as possible.

Throughout her nursing education, Lori credits her mentors for helping her identify her passions and obtain leadership opportunities in nursing. As an undergraduate nursing student, Lori served on the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) Board of Directors. Later, as she worked to obtain her master’s degree in nursing administration and complete her post-master’s family nurse practitioner certification, Lori worked closely with the faculty at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) to tailor the program to fit her needs, including completing research assistantships and serving as a graduate teaching assistant. Because of her diverse experience and support from her mentors along the way, Lori ultimately determined that her passion was giving upcoming nurses the education and resources needed for success and helping shape the way they view innovation in the profession. After accepting a full-time teaching position at UAH, Lori obtained her doctor of nursing practice at the Ida Moffett School of Nursing at Samford University in 2010 in an effort to make the biggest possible impact on her students.

Today, Lori’s focus is on preparing the next generation of nurses to tackle clinical challenges that may arise throughout their careers. To ensure nursing students at UAH are receiving the most comprehensive training available, Lori facilitates the development of 3-D printed models to closely simulate real-life nursing scenarios, giving students the access to trainings and experiences that otherwise may have been out of reach.

We spoke with Lori to learn more about her work and how she hopes to continue shaping the education of new nurses for years to come.

J&J: What inspired you to begin using 3-D printing to develop training simulations for students?

Lori Lioce: Healthcare simulation is an important learning mechanism. For students, it is immersive, challenging, and provides the opportunity to discover and expand nursing processes. For faculty, it provides the opportunity to see how students think, make decisions, assess situations, and interpret data from their patients in real time. When I joined the UAH faculty, I studied the theoretical basis for simulation training and worked with my colleagues to bring sophisticated simulation resources to our students, though financing equipment proved to be a challenge (as it is for many organizations). Rather than purchasing the equipment, we decided to develop it ourselves, and I began collaborating with a research scientist at the UAH Systems Management and Production Center (SMPC), Norven Goddard. In our discussions, he mentioned having several 3D printers that students were using for rockets and drones, and I immediately began envisioning the possibilities for our nursing students.

J&J: What is the process for developing one of these 3D printed training simulations?

Lori: The process is deceptively simple! After meeting with the team at SMPC to discuss the material or tool that is needed, we develop a prototype. From there, we work together with the team of students and faculty at SMPC to adjust the prototype until it is consistent with what we need. For example, a portion of one of our existing simulators was anatomically incorrect, resulting in training errors for our students. We worked with the SMPC students and faculty to develop a corrected prototype in the right size, texture, and color.

J&J: How important do you feel innovation is to nursing and nursing education?

Lori: Innovation is absolutely key to inspiring learners. Stimulating curiosity, self-analysis, and self-reflection are vital to improving the overall healthcare system, providing better care, and taking care of patients and families. Additionally, our partnership with SMPC offers engineering students experience in developing biomedical solutions and helps to redefine the role of nursing in healthcare technology development. This unique integration saves money for our school and students, and ultimately allows more students to pursue a career in nursing.

J&J: In what ways do you see this work impacting the nursing community – now and in the future?

Lori: There is really an unlimited and untapped potential in the use of technology and interprofessional collaboration. These partnerships make our resources go further and provide more comprehensive solutions for our students.

Because of this work, money may no longer be the primary barrier to adopting new technology. Many high schools and communities have 3D printers now, so collaborating with those groups can provide unique opportunities to develop something beneficial for students across multiple disciplines. We are only limited by our vision, problem solving abilities, effort, and commitment to pursuing solutions.

J&J: How are you and other nurses, in a unique position to collaborate with others and share what you’ve learned?

Lori: As a nurse in academia, I feel that I am responsible for scholarly contributions to the sciences. Through my work, I can contribute my knowledge to other nurses via presentations and research, allowing them to have the information they need to innovate in their careers. Additionally, we publish the designs for our 3D printing resources online so that other nurses and healthcare professionals can use what we’ve developed.

I am grateful to the mentors and leaders who have taken the time to listen to my ideas, hone my thinking, share their expertise, and integrate new ideas with me. I truly love teaching, learning, and collaborating, and I have faith and hope that together, nurses can help improve the health and lives of our patients and strengthen our communities.

You can learn more about the College of Nursing at UAH here. The team’s 3D designs are also available on Thingiverse.

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