Recently, I attended an ACHE event to mingle with the healthcare community in the low country of Charleston. I met wonderful people doing great things to better healthcare experiences for patients. There was one conversation that was a particularly clarifying moment for me.
I met an administrator at the VA Medical Center. We talked about what Veterans need. I mentioned that in my observation, their wait times are tremendous and they can be at a facility all day. She stopped me in my tracks. She told me that they are not necessarily there all day because of their appointment; they are there because they want to be there! Veterans feel a sisterhood and brotherhood with those that served in the crucible of combat. It is like going home to family. If you listen in on discussions within the waiting areas, you will hear comparisons of experiences and war stories. Where else are these individuals able to connect so well to such a captivating audience? Now this is a "healing environment" if I ever heard of one!
She went on to explain that the coffee shop was once in the middle of the hospital with little visibility. It was moved to the front lobby in response to the need for a place to accommodate the comaraderie between their patients. The shop gives a spot for a "sit down" and a sharing platform over a cup of joe.
I have a renewed respect for our VA Hospitals. They know what their patients need and they are providing it. I sincerely appreciate the "aha moment" and the sharing of information. I strongly suspect that this clarifying instance will transfer into other areas for me as I design. Thank you for this realization.
At a recent conference we talked extensively about mentoring young professionals to bring them up through the ranks. Since then, I've had conversations with other senior professionals about snagging even earlier "groupies". I am interested in giving back and shamelessly soliciting to college students to choose a path as a healthcare interior designer.
So I went to Auburn University and gave a class on "Patient Room Design" to interior architectural undergrad students. It was the Monday morning after Spring Break week at 8 am. They were awake and attentive and asked many questions. Their next project would be the design of a head wall in a patient room - a life-size mock-up! I wish I could have seen the results of that exercise. I believe that minus the distractions of years of being told, "not you can't do that", the designs were probably fresh, creative, and exciting.
Once we have been designing for so many years or decades, our box sometimes gets quite small. It takes a new viewpoint from a fresh perspective to throw away the box and look at the solution in a whole new slant. I can get behind that idea. It has proven it's worth many times in my career.
According to CIDA, the course requirements for a degree in interior design do not allow for a specialty focus until the graduate program. At that level, I would like to see the focus on healthcare be more widespread. I am willing to help. It started at Auburn to plant a seed with undergrads and I'm hoping it could lead to genuine interest for a few brave souls. . . . . AND . . . . I would be remiss if I didn't wish Auburn good luck on their FINAL FOUR play-offs!