As awareness of the healthcare design field grows, colleges and universities continue to develop new and enrich current curriculums to foster the next generation of thoughtful, well-rounded, and empathic healthcare designers, architects, interior designers, facility planners, and construction and engineering professionals. As these young hires enter the industry, seasoned professionals at firms across the country are ready to mentor, guide, and propel this new talent.

We asked our Editorial Advisory Board members and their colleagues to weigh in on what attributes they’re seeking in recent graduates, the challenges to attracting talent, and what advice they have for the next generation of healthcare design professionals. Here’s what they had to say:

Q: What skills/attributes are you looking for in young hires?

“The baseline includes talent and communications skills, but the differentiators are an open mind, the ability to collaborate, and being a great listener, with motivation and a passion to make a difference and interest in working with others to learn and achieve it.”—Carolyn BaRoss, principal, firm wide healthcare interior design director, Perkins+Will

“You’re either a critical thinker or you’re not. We need staff who will think through issues and make critical decisions well for our clients.”—Catherine L. Gow, principal, health facilities planning, Francis Cauffman

“Enthusiasm, a curious mind, and the ability to work in a team-oriented environment. …These are the differentiators that separate good candidates from great ones.”—Kurt Spiering, vice president, HGA Architects and Engineers

“Healthcare environments in many ways have become more and more prescriptive as evidence-based design, LEED, and Well buildings make their mark in the health and wellness environment. At the same time, the industry’s want and need for creativity and innovation is at an all-time high. Critical thinkers can discover the new opportunities.”—Tom Trenolone design director, central region, HDR


Q: What’s the biggest challenge to attracting young talent and how is your organization overcoming that?

“Keeping them focused in one building type over a prolonged period. Because of the immense complexities in this building type, it takes a long time to develop competency and then mastery. Some don’t have the patience for the long haul and leave the practice for other less complicated building types. Because we have multiple building types within our practice, we regularly offer staff opportunities to investigate other building typologies by working on other projects. We’ve found that this experience brings new ideas into our healthcare practice and makes our design responses richer because of this perspective.”—Kurt Spiering, vice president, HGA Architects and Engineers

“Attracting younger talent away from the large market cities with the larger firms that have name recognition. We’re overcoming this by integrating [young hires] into the design process and project team from day one. Their voice and point of view are important to diversity of thought for the project team, and we emphasize their involvement and contribution.”—Michael Lied, principal, director of healthcare, GBBN Architects, Inc.

“Being too big. The challenges of working for a very large firm can be vast, and to a young hire, it can provide many obstacles. For example, millennials want an environment that gives them a chance to advance quickly—with or without sacrifice. Candidates might believe those opportunities only exist in smaller firms and that larger firms have too many levels and layers. However, this is not always the case. We’re trying to overcome this by proving to be open, honest, and transparent.”—Steve Stokes, senior associate vice president, CallisonRTKL


Q: What career advice do you have for young professionals entering the field?

“Young professionals should immerse themselves as much as possible in activities that provide exposure to the people who provide patient care. For me personally, my interactions with the amazing people of the nursing profession are always motivating. Beyond that, this exposure will expand their ability to understand the inner workings and build their capacity for empathy.”—Tom Chessum, principal, CO Architects

“Look for a culture fit for the long haul. Be patient. Select a place and opportunity to thrive, and don’t be complacent.”—Jeff Stouffer, executive vice president, health group director, HKS Inc.

“Be a sponge to learn from fellow workers, clients, other professionals (consultants, contractors, and engineers) and get exposed to a variety of project types, not just healthcare.”—Karl Sonnenberg, partner, ZGF Architects LLP

“Develop your own five-year plan that answers the following questions: Where do you want to be? What do you want to do? How much do you want to make? What do you want to accomplish? Giving millennials clarity in their path of progression in our design profession can only assist in the greater whole, which is a win-win.”—Steve Stokes

“Be open, ask more questions of yourself, your team and clients, be resourceful, and continue to challenge yourself by asking, ‘Why does it have to be like that?’ You can make an impact.”—Carolyn BaRoss

“Shadow as many clinicians on different projects as possible, as that allows you a real understanding of how they do their work in treating patients.”—Catherine L. Gow