What does a healthcare interior designer do?

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What is a Healthcare Interior Designer?

Healthcare interior designers are responsible for creating functional, safe, calming, and aesthetically pleasing interior spaces in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living residences, and medical offices. The overriding priority of the healthcare interior designer is patient-centered design. This involves adhering to strict regulations and codes relating to hygiene, infection control, and accessibility, and incorporating evidence-based principles and practices to support patient healing and optimize staff efficiency and healthcare delivery.

What does a Healthcare Interior Designer do?

Two doctors walking down a modern hospital hallway designed by a healthcare interior designer.

Duties and Responsibilities
Healthcare interior designers perform a range of specialized tasks to create optimal interior spaces in healthcare facilities. Their key responsibilities include:

  • Space Planning – Working closely with healthcare professionals, healthcare interior designers analyze the available space in a healthcare facility to create efficient layouts that optimize workflow and support the delivery of medical services. They must consider the specific requirements of various medical departments, patient rooms, waiting areas, and staff workplaces, ensuring that the space is well organized and equipped to handle patient traffic and staff movements.
  • Patient-Centered Design – Based on their site visits and research, and using specialized software to create floor plans, renderings, and visual presentations, healthcare interior designers design environments that first and foremost promote healing and comfort for patients. This includes selecting soothing color schemes, appropriate lighting, comfortable furniture, and elements that reduce patient stress and anxiety.
  • Safety and Infection Control / Regulatory Compliance – Healthcare interior designers are knowledgeable about building codes, safety and infection control requirements, and other regulations specific to healthcare facilities. They ensure that the design complies with all industry standards and guidelines.
  • Materials and Furnishings Selection – Designers choose materials and finishes that are easy to clean and sanitize and that meet all safety standards to reduce the risk of healthcare-associated infections. They source appropriate materials, furnishings, and equipment that are durable, long-lasting, and meet the functional needs of healthcare spaces while adhering to the desired design aesthetics.
  • Ergonomics and Accessibility – Healthcare interior designers consider the needs of patients and healthcare professionals, ensuring that spaces are accessible to all, and that furniture and equipment are ergonomically designed to prevent strain and discomfort.
  • Integration of Technology – Healthcare facilities rely on various technological systems. Designers plan for the integration of medical equipment, communication tools, and electronic health record systems, ensuring a seamless and efficient technological environment.
  • Evidence-Based Design – They incorporate evidence-based design principles, using research and data to inform design decisions. This approach ensures that design choices align with proven strategies to enhance patient outcomes and staff performance.
  • Wayfinding and Signage – Navigating healthcare facilities can be challenging for patients and visitors. Healthcare interior designers create intuitive wayfinding systems and clear signage to help people easily find their way around the facility.
  • Sustainability – Many healthcare organizations are adopting sustainable practices, asking designers to integrate eco-friendly materials, energy-efficient lighting, and waste reduction strategies into the facility's design.
  • Project / Budget Management – Healthcare interior designers collaborate with architects, contractors, and other stakeholders to oversee the implementation of the design plan from concept to completion. This involves making necessary revisions and updates to their designs, incorporating requested changes or improvements. They also manage project budgets by making design choices that align with the client’s financial constraints.

Types of Healthcare Interior Designers
Now that we have a sense of a day in the life of a general healthcare interior designer, let’s look at some different types of healthcare interior designers, focusing on the design challenges posed by specific kinds of healthcare facilities or patient populations:

  • Hospital Interior Designer – Hospital interior designers focus on designing spaces within large medical facilities, such as general hospitals or specialized medical centers. They work on various areas, including patient rooms, waiting areas, treatment rooms, operating theaters, and administrative spaces.
  • Clinic and Medical Office Interior Designer – These designers concentrate on smaller healthcare settings, such as outpatient clinics, medical offices, dental practices, and specialty clinics. They create functional and patient-friendly spaces that cater to the specific needs of medical practitioners and their patients.
  • Senior Living and Assisted Living Interior Designer – Specializing in spaces for the elderly, these designers create environments in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and memory care units. They prioritize safety, accessibility, and creating a comfortable and supportive environment for seniors.
  • Behavioral Health Interior Designer – Behavioral health facilities require specialized design considerations due to the unique needs of patients with mental health conditions. Designers in this field focus on creating calming and therapeutic environments while prioritizing safety and privacy.
  • Children's Healthcare Interior Designer – This type of designer specializes in pediatric healthcare environments, including pediatric hospitals, pediatric clinics, and children's wards. They create playful and child-friendly spaces that help reduce anxiety and fear in young patients.
  • Surgical Suite Interior Designer – These designers concentrate on the design of operating rooms and surgical suites, ensuring that the space is well-organized, efficient, and equipped with the necessary medical equipment and technology.
  • Rehabilitation Facility Interior Designer – Rehabilitation centers have specific design requirements to support patients' recovery and physical therapy. Designers in this field focus on creating spaces that aid in rehabilitation exercises and cater to patients with mobility challenges.
  • Laboratory and Research Facility Interior Designer – This type of designer specializes in creating functional and efficient laboratory and research spaces in healthcare facilities. They consider factors such as safety, workflow, and proper equipment placement.
  • Health and Wellness Interior Designer – These designers work on projects focused on health and wellness, including fitness centers, wellness spas, and integrative medicine facilities. They create spaces that promote wellbeing and healthy lifestyles.
  • Healthcare Design Consultant – Some designers work as consultants, providing expertise and guidance to healthcare organizations or design firms on various healthcare design projects.

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What is the workplace of a Healthcare Interior Designer like?

Healthcare interior designers can work for various organizations within the healthcare industry as well as design firms that specialize in healthcare projects. These are among their most common employers or contractors:

  • Architectural and Design Firms
  • Hospitals and Medical Centers
  • Multi-hospital Healthcare Systems and Networks
  • Senior Living and Assisted Living Facilities
  • Clinics and Medical Offices
  • Behavioral Health Facilities
  • Government and Non-profit Health Organizations
  • Health and Wellness Centers
  • Rehabilitation Centers

Employment opportunities for healthcare interior designers can vary based on location, market demand, and the size and nature of the design industry within a particular region. Additionally, designers may transition between different employers or work on a combination of employed and freelance projects throughout their careers.

Regardless of their place of employment, healthcare interior designers typically work in studios or offices equipped with workstations, design libraries, material samples, drafting tables, and design tools such as computer-aided design (CAD) software, to support the design process from research to implementation. The designer’s role, of course, almost invariably involves collaborating and meeting with clients, architects, engineers, contractors, craftsmen, suppliers, and other project stakeholders.

Healthcare interior designers frequently visit the properties on which they are working. Depending on the scale and location of their projects, they may need to travel to different cities or countries, or they may have the flexibility to work remotely.

Frequently Asked Questions

Healthcare Interior Designers are also known as:
Healthcare Design Specialist Medical Interior Designer