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5 Reasons For Designers To Specialize In Healthcare Interior Design

Laveta Brigham

Monica Margolles-Flores (MPS-H), Hospital Design Capstone project, hallway from main lobby to elevators Between the soaring popularity of HGTV shows and meaningful new studies on the impact interior design can have on healing and happiness, it’s not surprising that designers (and even non-designers; more on that later) are finding interior […]

Monica Margolles-Flores (MPS-H), Hospital Design Capstone project, hallway from main lobby to elevators

Between the soaring popularity of HGTV shows and meaningful new studies on the impact interior design can have on healing and happiness, it’s not surprising that designers (and even non-designers; more on that later) are finding interior design opportunities in healthcare and wellness-related projects.

But for a specialty to truly influence a designer’s career, pursuing a deep dive—through a master’s degree program for example—is an undeniably smart decision. And when it comes to healthcare interior design in particular, it can be life-changing too.

Here’s why designers should consider specializing in healthcare interior design, with insights from New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) faculty and graduates of its MPS in Design of Healthcare Environments (MPS-H) program, which is offered both online and in-person.

1. The jobs are there, as more healthcare administrators are looking to hire healthcare interior design experts. People in healthcare administrative roles such as VP for Patient Satisfaction or Director of Patient Experience constantly make decisions that not only impact patients’ health, but also their company’s bottom line and their insurance company’s rates. That means examining everything from how to mitigate risks, avoid slips and falls, improve patient outcomes and safety, and even, in today’s healthcare landscape, attract new customers and retain repeat ones.

“Look at Labor & Delivery floors, for example,” explains Ellen Fisher, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean at NYSID. “Expectant families often pick the hospital that’s more beautiful, welcoming, and stress-free, wherever they will feel most comfortable.” The best people to help healthcare administration with all of this—from flooring, to lighting, to way-finding? Healthcare interior designers.

Hiral Shah (MPS-H), Hospital Design Capstone project, typical patient room

2. It’s fulfilling work. Designers want to do good, and this is a proven way of doing good, says Fisher. Qualitative and quantitative research has proven that the design of a physical space can positively affect a patient’s health and recovery. Take Roger Ulrich’s study for example, which showed that a view of nature can influence recovery from surgery. Other studies have looked at the effects of design on people with Alzheimer’s disease and people with autism. It’s this altruistic, life-changing aspect that drew Amy Carter, Healthcare Planner at Gensler, to NYSID’s MPS-H program.

“I chose healthcare design because I am passionate about the human experience in healthcare environments,” she says. Turns out, her now healthy mother was diagnosed with breast cancer while Carter was in NYSID’s program. “Hearing about her experience made me feel even more compassionate towards patients, family, and caregivers, and enabled me to improve a hypothetical design I had done in studio for a cancer care center.”

Monica Margolles-Flores (MPS-H), Hospital Design Capstone project, typical patient room

3. There will always be work. As with any profession, the question of outlook and job security is a big one. Will this field endure and stand the test of time? Fisher says yes. “During all previous recessions in this country, the field of healthcare interior design has always grown and has never been negatively affected by a recession,” she says. Because of the long pipeline for those building projects and renovations, these projects go forward, she explains. “It’s a very stable and secure field in design. Designers with this specific credential are in a position of strength when they look for jobs in the field.”

4. Healthcare interior design is challenging, in a great way. Pete Agnew, Interior Designer with HGA Architects and Engineers and also a NYSID graduate actually switched careers into healthcare interior design and appreciates the challenges that come with every project. “Generally, and most often on New York based projects, space is limited. It’s like the ultimate jigsaw puzzle trying to enhance patient care spaces as well as maximize opportunities to improve workflow and efficiencies for staff,” he says. “The planning aspect is what I love the most. There was ample opportunity to explore this particular discipline at NYSID through the studio work we did in the program, with the industry experts that led the studios.”

Monicca Margolles-Flores (MPS-H), Hospital Design Capstone project, main lobby

5. The career paths are diverse. Healthcare may be one vertical, but think of the number of workplaces that open up for a healthcare interior designer—outpatient therapy clinics, doctors’ offices, spas, and beyond. In addition, there’s a rapidly growing need for this kind of knowledge around the globe.

NYSID graduate Pál András Rutkai says, “The knowledge I gained proved to be a priceless asset when I returned to Budapest and found myself right in the middle of the largest hospital construction program Hungary has ever undertaken.” He adds that this degree had led him to all sorts of opportunities, including launching his own healthcare design consultancy, Healing Spaces.

Monica Margolles-Flores (MPS-H), Hospital Design Capstone project, courtyard patio

What’s next?

If you’re a designer, read more about NYSID’s MPS-H online. The program is open to anyone with a degree in interior design or architecture. Related fields will be considered if accompanied by a portfolio showing aptitude. MPS-H is a STEM program offering the possible opportunity for a 3-year OPT post-graduation.

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