Research Brief: Improving the Healthcare Design Studio

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In the realm of interior design, its profound impact extends far beyond aesthetics, particularly evident in healthcare environments where the designed space can influence outcomes for patients, staff, and visitors. The challenge facing interior design education is not only about cultivating professional competence but also instilling the attitudes necessary for crafting spaces that enhance quality of life, especially in healthcare settings.

An enlightening case study details the transformation of a healthcare design studio through a values-driven approach, leading to remarkable improvements in EDAC exam pass rates and healthcare-related internship/employment rates. This innovative learning approach empowers students to connect with evidence-based healthcare design on a personal level, inspiring a commitment to healthcare-related design practice. While the study’s results may not be universally applicable, it serves as a promising model for courses focused on healthcare design.

The practical implications are substantial. Specialty employee certification emerges as a marketable asset for designers, aligning with the evolving landscape of healthcare provision post-Affordable Care Act. Such certifications streamline the learning curve, enabling quicker integration into active design work. Furthermore, fostering a greater pool of designers with a keen interest in healthcare design addresses a current shortage, presenting a win-win for both firms and owners seeking fresh perspectives.

The synergy between design firms and educators is crucial. Collaboration can bridge the gap, offering students real-world healthcare projects to enrich their studio courses. This not only prepares them for the demands of healthcare design but also energizes and engages students, making healthcare design a compelling and viable specialty. In a profession where the impact goes beyond aesthetics, this approach not only shapes competent designers but also instills a passion for creating spaces that truly matter.



This case study explores the influence of the healthcare design studio experience on students’ short-term professional goals as measured through rates of healthcare-related certification and internship/employment.


The value and relevance of interior design is evident in the healthcare design sector. However, interior design students may not perceive this value if it is not communicated through their design education. Students’ experience in the design studio plays a crucial role in determining career choices, and students may be more committed to career goals when there is clear connection between major coursework and professional practice.


The authors compared healthcare-related certification and internship/employment levels between two student cohorts in a capstone undergraduate interior design healthcare design studio course. The first cohort was led by the existing curriculum. The second cohort was led by the revised curriculum that specifically aimed at encouraging students to commit to healthcare-related design practice.


When measured at 3 months from graduation, the second cohort, led by the revised curriculum, saw a 30% increase in Evidence-based Design Accreditation and Certification exam pass rates and a 40% increase in healthcare-related internship/employment.


The challenge of interior design education is to instill in emerging professionals not only professional competence but also those professional attitudes that will make them better prepared to design spaces that improve quality of life, particularly in healthcare environments. The results exceeded the project goals, and so this could be considered a promising practice for courses focused on healthcare design education.

Cite this Article

Tan L., Hong M., Albert T.W. Improving Student Commitment to Healthcare-Related Design Practice by Improving the Studio Learning Experience. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal. 2017;10(5):127-142. doi:10.1177/1937586717713733


Additional References

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