Based on a national survey of 173 young professionals in healthcare design firms, there’s an overall satisfaction with work environments and opportunities for creativity.

The web-based survey was conducted in October by the recently created Institute for Health and Wellness Design at the University of Kansas School of Architecture Design and Planning. A mix of large and small firms involved in healthcare design were asked for input from staffers under the age of 40: HKS, HGA, HOK, Invision, WHR, ACI Boland, The Lawrence Group, Pulse Design, and Gensler.

Major issues and concerns raised by the respondents focused on communications and leadership interaction within firms, along with compensation and benefits. Most respondents envision continued work in healthcare design, and—somewhat surprisingly—the most frequently identified educational needs related to project management.

Over one-half (57 percent) of the respondents identified their primary office location in the Midwest. Offices in the South accounted for 28 percent, with only 7 percent from the East and 8 percent from the western states. Consistent with demographic shifts in recent college admission, 61 percent of the respondents were women.  The majority (60 percent) were ages 25 to 34, with 21 percent in the age group 25 to 40, 15 percent under the age of 25, and 4 percent over 40. Half of the respondents had bachelor degrees, and 47 percent had graduate degrees. Eighty percent of the respondents were architects or architectural interns, 14 percent were interior designers, and the balance were in engineering or other professions.

Respondents estimated that they spend approximately 45 hours a week at work, with the most frequent tasks based in construction documents. When asked if they believed their creative capabilities were being appropriately used, 56 percent said yes and 42 percent said no.

The top three “dissatisfiers” with current work situations were salaries and benefits (one-third of responses), amount of time at work, and scope of work. Almost one-half of the respondents identified their annual salary at more than $55,000, with a wide range of benefits also being provided. When asked to identify their level of satisfaction with their employment situation, most identified comradery with their coworkers as highly satisfying; human resources/benefits received the least favorable satisfaction. The top three work “satisfiers” were opportunities for growth (62 percent), project types (42 percent), and comradery with teammates (42 percent).

The three major “stressors” identified by respondents related to project management: limited communications (47 percent), incomplete/contradictory instructions (46 percent), and management oversight (38 percent). When asked to identify continuing education interests, project management was the most frequently identified need.

Fifty-four percent of the respondents anticipated that they would stay in healthcare architecture as one of their top future goals, while 18 percent envisioned leaving the field.

Overall, based on this survey, organizations should consider the following actions to support young professionals:

  • Assure that project managers and principals establish strong communications with and task descriptions for young professionals to clarify expectations and responsibilities.
  • Support activities that encourage staff comradery.
  • Establish in-house or external continuing education programs in project management fundamentals of healthcare design and evidence-based design.
  • Create opportunities for diverse exposure to project types and client interaction.

The Institute would like to thank the participating firms and individuals for their support of this study. We plan to make this an annual survey along with other studies designed to support the practice of healthcare design.

Frank Zilm, DArch, FAIA, FACHA, is Chester Dean Director of the University of Kansas Institute for Health and Wellness Design. He can be reached at