Clemson Professors, National Nursing Leaders Create Health Care Design Certificate for Clinical and Leadership Nurses

Staff Report From South Carolina CEO

Friday, November 8th, 2019

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, Director of the Clemson School of Nursing and Chief Nursing Academic Officer Kathleen Valentine 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.

The new Leadership & Innovation in Health + Design Certificate program was created by O’Hara, Valentine, Academy of Nursing Excellence members and faculty in Clemson’s graduate Architecture + 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 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’s Architecture + Health program, O’Hara said. It will be a 12 credit hour online program with 45 hours of fieldwork over two years.

The academy will support the courses that will be offered through the School of Nursing and Architecture + Health and academy members will serve as advisers.

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 each other.

“This is the best way to integrate our disciplines,” O’Hara said. “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. A fellow of both the American Institute of Architects and the American College of Healthcare Architects, 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. “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. “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.

“These decisions are multimillion and sometimes billion-dollar decisions and they affect staffing, operations, patients and providers for the next 30 years. Few other decisions have such impact or far-reaching implications,” she said. “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.

The academy is comprised of 10 nurse scholars from Clemson, academia nationwide, industry and the military health system.

In addition to the founders, Valentine and O’Hara, the other academy members include:

Debbie Gregory, RN, DNP, senior clinical consultant at Smith Seckman and Reid Inc., co-editor for HERD Journal, adjunct faculty at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing;

Jaynelle Stichler, DNS, RN, NEA-BCR, EDAC, FACHE, FAAN, founding co-editor of HERD Journal, research consultant for Sharp HealthCare’s Center of Nursing Excellence and professor emerita of nursing at San Diego State University;

Yolanda Keys, DHA, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, EDAC, professor for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi;

Kathy Okland, RN, MPH, EDAC, health care design consultant;

Susan Silverman, MSN, MBA, vice president of CannonDesign, a global architectural firm;

Christine Staples, a clinical planner with the Defense Health Agency;

Terri Zborowsky, Ph.D., RN, EDAC, design researcher at Hannel, Green & Abrahamson Inc.; and

Joyce Durham, RN, AIA, EDAC, director of facilities strategic planning of New York-Presbyterian health system.