Healthcare Interior Designer, Michelle
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Aisha took us through her work-life at Terrence Higgins Trust last month. This time round, we take a different look at healthcare. Michelle explains how she discovered there are many ways to help people, and what it’s like to design interiors for hospitals, surgeries and intensive care units.
What do you do?
I’m a Healthcare Interior Designer at an architecture firm.
Are there different types of Healthcare Designers?
Yes, I would definitely say so! Since healthcare projects are so big, there are many different roles that go into making a project successful.
Can you tell us what your day-to-day is like?
It depends on what part of the project phase you are in. If it’s early concept phase, that usually involves meetings and workshops with clients and internal meetings to brainstorm concepts. Then there’ll be some desk-time to research design ideas, sketch, and finally present ideas back to the team.
It’s quite varied and hands-on – you get to work with the latest materials, see supplier showrooms and learn about the latest construction techniques. During construction you may also have to be on-site to help solve issues as the building progresses.
What do you love most about your job?
Healthcare design was an outlet to combine my passions for healthcare, science and design. I love the variety in my work – one minute I can be knee-deep researching the latest in intensive care unit design whilst attending healthcare design conferences to increase my knowledge, the next I’m sketching and combining various materials to create beautiful, functional and meaningful designs.
What do you find most challenging?
The concept or idea you start with never ends up that way – you really have to be flexible and go with the flow. Even if everything is okay on the client’s side, and it looks like you’re on track to get your design built, you never know if something on the construction site might require you to alter it really late in the process.
What did you see yourself doing when you were a kid?
I’ve always wanted to help others, but as a child I thought being a doctor was the only answer. These days I believe we need talented, passionate people doing all sorts of impactful work in order to improve the way society functions as a whole.
What challenges did you face in reaching where you are today?
During my uni years I really struggled as I didn’t feel like I connected with being an interior designer doing residential, exhibition or retail projects. I didn’t know healthcare design even existed at the time.
If you weren’t a healthcare designer, what do you think you’d be?
I almost ended up as an optometrist! But if I wasn’t doing this now, I’d want to be a sustainability warrior.
Where do you see yourself going next?
I’m actually going to take my healthcare design skills towards creating my own start-up to improve the livelihoods of seniors living at home in the UK. It’s a bit of a change, but all a challenge needs is a little bit of courage!
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first left school?
Keep an open mind. And seek out new opportunities and adventures as there is so much that lies beyond what you know.
What advice would you give to someone interested in joining your industry?
I feel like there’s a shortage of young people who are passionate about healthcare design as it’s not so well known! If you’re genuinely interested, do not be afraid to reach out to people in the industry and ask for work or an internship.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given?
Be courageous. Don’t be afraid to speak up for the things you care about.
What quote do you live by?
Time is the only commodity that we can’t take back. It’s the greatest investment we can make with something we find valuable.