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back to school....

Designing a highly functional healthcare facility would be a complex undertaking in a more stable time when technology and regulation were not in such a state of flux. But the US healthcare system itself is in the midst of a vast transformation that will leave it markedly different from its current state. Chaotic as this change appears right now, it's all for the good if our system is to sustain itself into the future.

This challenges healthcare facilities design in fundamental ways. Not only do the buildings need to function while the transformation occurs, they also require the flexibility to adapt to a future state that is largely unforeseen. As architects, we're required to address this change in the buildings we design and there is a real danger of focusing too narrowly on the change itself and losing sight of the needs of a primary stakeholder - the patient.

As I began the year's strategic planning, continuing education was a priority. I wanted a more formal exploration of the issues shaping healthcare design. Several great conferences are coming up this year that focus on the future of healthcare facility design. When I finally researched the available learning opportunities, I discovered a certificate program offered by Cornell University titled "Healthcare Facilities Planning and Design". It seemed I was not alone in the need for a better understanding of these broad issues.

The program is offered online and comprises six courses that can be completed in three or four months. What's exciting to me is that I'm the only architect taking the class! Strange as this sounds, I didn't want to hear about design solutions - I wanted to learn about the problems and changes from within healthcare. As the syllabus indicates, this class is for "hospital and healthcare facility administrators, chief executives, and facility management staff, and for medical and non-medical personnel who aspire to leadership positions within the healthcare industry". The program provides the opportunity to immerse in the very same issues that our healthcare clients deal with day-in and day-out. What an excellent opportunity!

Now if you'll excuse me....I've got homework due on Monday!

In their words, "If done right, and responsibly, healthcare facilities design and planning can transform your organization, impacting safety, operations, and the bottom line. Above all, an optimal, patient-centered healthcare environment has the power to improve clinical outcomes."

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