contributed by Stephanie M. Dacus [FF&E coordinator at Equipment Collaborative / interior design graduate / current graduate student]
Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple states, “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains, of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” I identify with those words. I cannot recall the exact moment of inspiration that led me to become an interior designer. A portion of the credit would need to go to my mother who watched HGTV on television almost all day, every day. Low and behold, I became obsessed with The Christopher Lowell Show as a young child. I enjoyed his enthusiasm and energy along with his innate ability to design beautiful interior spaces. From then on, I was hooked—hooked to the interior design profession, that is.
Body, Spirit & Mindful Design
Some time ago, I was led toward healthcare interior design, and the decision was confirmed last August when one of my grandmothers suffered a heart attack. She described two hospitals in which she was a patient, and the difference in her descriptions astounded me.
One hospital was the spitting image of what most people imagine a typical hospital to look with white walls, light-colored linoleum flooring, acoustical tile ceiling-the cold environment in which people are expected to heal. The second room was much more comforting with earth tones, natural-looking materials or as my grandmother said, "it felt more like a home." At that time, I realized my dream was to contribute to the betterment of society by creating comforting, energy-lifting spaces for people in medical facilities.
I believe there is a relationship between spirit and body and that the proper environment can stimulate the strength of mind and contribute to healing the body. In my opinion, this extends beyond patients to healthcare workers and families amidst the struggle of having a relative in the facility. Their spirits could also be lifted and their burdens lightened by a revitalizing environment incorporating appropriate planning and design for their mental peace and their convenience.
On The Road
Due to the fact that 2009 was my last year as an undergraduate student, I decided to dedicate my free time to professional networking, mostly because our professors drilled how important it was to do so continuously. A close friend of mine from school and I took a road trip to METROCON in Dallas, Texas, which is a more intimate version of NeoCon that is held in Chicago, Illinois.
At this event, we met the energetic, delightful Peter Brooks, who happened to be the executive director for the American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers [AAHID]. It was so refreshing to meet someone so open to meeting students. Peter immediately began introducing us to various professionals he thought important for our budding careers. It was Peter who pulled the strings to get me a spot as a volunteer for a conference I had read about in Contract magazine.
Somehow, I scrounged up the money for an airplane ticket and hotel at the last minute. I boarded an airplane after a long day of work and headed to Florida for Healthcare Design 09 to pursue this monumental volunteering opportunity and cultivate my professional future. It was worth every penny.
A Healthy Experience
The Healthcare Design conference was held at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Conference Center in Orlando with more than enough activities to fill every minute of every day. The conference offered a wide range of activities such as motivational keynote speakers, continuing education classes for various professional associations, local medical facility tours, and a vast assortment of manufacturers located in the Exhibit Hall.
The first significant activity I attended was AAHID’s breakfast and annual meeting. Peter introduced me to some of the most impressive individuals involved in credentialing interior designers specifically for healthcare interior design. From there, I met prominent architects, engineers, doctors, nurses, exhibitors, medical equipment planners…the list could go on and on. Just walking the exhibitor hall is a daunting task but getting as much information as possible only assists in furthering your professional relations and education.
As a volunteer I was unable to attend any educational series (which are mainly presentations and/or lectures), but I was able to sit in on a few roundtable discussions (these discussions involved almost every individual in the conference room), which turned out to be a few of the greatest experiences of the whole trip.
Working through problems and questions through communication seemed to work well for all professionals in attendance. One of the roundtables I sat in on was titled "Evidence-based Design Research and Approaches Advances in Ambulatory Design: Applying POE Knowledge," and the discussion mostly focused on improving hospital design by implementing information taken from post-occupancy evaluations. Of course, I was a little lost because I was not familiar with certain terminology, but it was great being able to gradually learn.
Work The Network
A soon-to-be graduating student, I felt the most important details to focus on while at the conference were to listen and talk. First listening because with that comes learning, and, with talking, you form invaluable relationships with people who are in your profession.
My advice to future interior designers that are considering the healthcare design industry would be to attend as many professional occasions as possible. Talk to everyone, get business cards and write key items covered in the conversation so you can remember them later when you send them thank you cards, emails or phone calls-you never know when a connection will help you get to where you want to go.
Not only did I come home with an extra 10 lbs. of literature and goodies in my luggage, but I also learned important product knowledge, met fantastically motivated people, and made crucial connections through professional networking. I was truly thankful for the opportunity to go to this conference and I plan to attend next year’s Healthcare Design conference without a doubt.