Through a new certificate program, the Clemson University School of Nursing will educate practicing nurses about the design of health care facilities, empowering them to improve the safety and function of the spaces where they provide care.
To accomplish this mission, Chief Nursing Academic Officer Kathleen Valentine, director of the school, and one of the school’s professors, Susan O’Hara, founded the Clemson University Academy of Nursing Excellence in Design in 2017. The Academy of Nursing Excellence is a virtual entity that connects scholars, educators, researchers and professionals to advance the science of health care design and nurse leadership in the health care design industry, according to a news release.
The new Leadership & Innovation in Health and Design Certificate program was created by O’Hara, Valentine, Academy of Nursing Excellence members and faculty in Clemson’s graduate Architecture and Health program for practicing nurses as well as new architects interested in the health care design field. The certificate was approved by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education in late September and classes will begin in fall 2020, the news release said.
The certificate is the first of its kind at Clemson and in the Southeast as it combines courses from the School of Nursing and the School of Architecture, O’Hara said in the release. It will be a 12 credit hour online program with 45 hours of fieldwork over two years.
O’Hara said there have not been many academic programs for nurses involved in health care design to learn the fundamentals. This certificate connects nursing and architecture graduate courses as well as students from both programs so they have a chance to learn from one another.
“This is the best way to integrate our disciplines,” O’Hara said in the release. “It is the program I was searching for when I began my career in the health care design field. The interdisciplinary nature and rigor of the curriculum, the practicum experience in the student’s current research or work environment and the support of the academy members makes it unique.”
David Allison, director of the architecture/health program in the School of Architecture and an Alumni Distinguished Professor of Architecture, has helped provide framework for some of the courses. Allison said that nurses need to be prepared to be involved in the design process because of the impact they can have on the design of spaces.
“Nurses have historically been critical sources of insight for design professionals on how the built environment impacts health and patient care as well as themselves,” Allison said in the release. “This program will provide clinical nurses and other care providers critical knowledge, skills and experiences that will enable them to be even more effective collaborators in the design of health care settings.”
Valentine said there is a nationwide demand for programs such as the Clemson certificate program. Health care organizations seeking American Nurses’ Credentialing Center Magnet designation must demonstrate excellence in nursing care, including criteria of nurse involvement in the design and implementation of workflow improvements.
“The environment is of central interest to the discipline of nursing,” Valentine said in the release. “It guides research, education and practice. It includes both characteristics external to us, such as a setting or place, as well as a person’s internal environment, such as genetics and immune functioning.”
The design of a health care facility is often the largest financial decision a health care executive will ever make in his or her career and there’s a need for more research focused on facility features, such as flooring, handrails, lighting, visibility and alarms, according to nurse researcher and academy member Jaynelle Stichler. This research and attention to these details are something with which nurses can help, she said in the release.
“These decisions are multimillion and sometimes billion-dollar decisions and they affect staffing, operations, patients and providers for the next 30 years,” she said. “Few other decisions have such impact or far-reaching implications. I think we will have much better-designed hospitals when nurses and architects learn and interact together to solve issues that we face, such as a patient safety and work efficiency.”
Aside from enabling practicing nurses to lead and facilitate the health care facility design, the academy’s other goal was to create the International Nursing Conference for Excellence in Healthcare Design. The inaugural conference was held in Greenville in August 2019. The annual conference will help disseminate research related to health care design and its effect on patients, providers and organizations.