What We Learned About Nursing School Design From a Sticky Dot Survey

As a multi-disciplinary architecture firm, Hord Coplan Macht understands the need for direct interaction with clients from each of our many studios. That’s why we asked Jim Determan and Paul Lund, principals from our Higher Education studio, to attend the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) Spring Annual Meeting, where they talked with deans from around the country to
hear their thoughts on the future of nursing schools.


“We attended the conference to be present, demonstrate expertise, meet clients, and make new connections,” Jim said. “I think we as a studio are much more focused on knowledge as a driver for design…We love to talk to these nursing schools and ask what they’re seeing, what’s coming next, how nursing education is changing. And then we’re better prepared to help design these spaces.”


As a way to do that, Paul and Jim decided to conduct an informal poll, asking conference-goers to pick their school’s top three space needs by placing stickers in columns like “Research Space” and “Distance Learning.” Here’s what they found out:


“There’s a great need for student-centric spaces,” Paul said. “Nursing schools are really a home away from home for students. They spend a lot of time in the building so it needs to feel comfortable, and they need places to get to know each other and discuss what they’ve seen.”


Event and conference space was a big need for many of the nursing school deans who participated in the poll.  “Having to leave the building for a conference or event robs some of the energy of the group. That’s a real challenge,” Paul said.


Most nursing schools use some kind of simulation to give students hands-on experience and although the technology isn’t quite there yet, they think virtual reality is the next big step. A dean from a major American university told Paul and Jim that they’re already beginning to move toward virtual reality, and will soon introduce VR goggles to simulate and manipulate scenarios for nurses to experience first-hand. “This is the bleeding edge,” Jim said.


Getting ahead of these trends is crucial. “It’s important to understand what’s coming in the future so that we can prepare for upcoming trends now,” Jim said. “These buildings are going to be there for 20 – 40 years so they have to stand the test of time.” As Paul said, they should have “good bones” but be otherwise adaptable.


That’s why Hord Coplan Macht is dedicated to conducting research and attending industry-specific conferences like the AACN Spring Annual Meeting. Our client- and knowledge-based approach is the driving force for everything we do.


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