In this interview we catch up with Jacobs’ Designer and Lead Health Researcher Shari Blanch ahead of the Australasian Health Design Conference in Melbourne where she’ll be co-presenting her research on the post occupancy evaluation process in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ.)
Let's talk with Shari:
Tell us what you're working on these days.
There’s this small country right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Kiribati. Jacobs was engaged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Aotearoa New Zealand to design a 3,000m2 hospital on one of the peninsulas to support their growing population and boost their health system coverage. Developing the design has been a really exciting and rewarding process so far, with one-in-a-lifetime opportunities to visit the remote region and foster meaningful discussions with local clinicians. The hospital design has a heavy sustainability focus with natural ventilation and passive solar design for a very tropical climate and has to overcome many maintenance challenges due to the remote location and marine environment.
What led you to a specialty in healthcare design?
My first architecture job was in a practice that specialized in healthcare projects and I immediately fell in love with the huge value and impact these types of projects can have on society and the healthcare system.
How does what you do contribute to improved health outcomes for communities?
My current role is a mixture of healthcare design and healthcare research. Through the research side of things, I seek to communicate current evidence-based design knowledge to the wider health team, as well as undertake primary research projects which can enhance our collective body of knowledge and continue to inform the projects that we undertake at Jacobs. In terms of project work, we’re always looking for ways to innovate our projects and, with the addition of strong research principles, we are constantly pushing the envelope on the design of healthcare facilities to deliver the best outcomes for patients, staff and families.
What is the biggest trend you’re seeing in healthcare design right now and how does this impact what you do?
In Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, and in a post-COVID world, health systems are suffering from a chronic undersupply of staff. New buildings require new staff and without them everything we do can fall flat. Adjusting to this trend in the architecture space has meant looking at new ways of providing services in healthcare facilities and exploring innovative ways to streamline healthcare processes to reduce the burden of understaffing.
“Health systems today are suffering from a chronic undersupply of staff. Adjusting to this trend in the architecture space has meant looking at new ways of providing services in healthcare facilities and exploring innovative ways to streamline healthcare processes to reduce the burden of understaffing.”
Name one critical success factor for any healthcare design project.
I think if the design team, client and local health service are aligned from the beginning of the project on the key principles and outcomes required of the facility, then these principles and outcomes provide a really solid backbone for the development of a successful project.
What is your favorite part of your job?
One day is never the same as another — we have such a variety of engaging projects and a very knowledgeable body of staff all around the world, so you’re forever building skills and finding new, valuable opportunities within the company.
What has been your most interesting/proudest career moment to date?
I was extremely fortunate to be selected to speak at the European Healthcare Design Conference in London in June 2022. This involved presenting research that my colleague and I had conducted on post-occupancy evaluations for healthcare facilities in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. The opportunity to speak in front of esteemed peers in the industry, as well as absorb many other presentations, was definitely a career highlight.
When you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?
You’ll either find me on a plane heading to my next travel destination to soak up some culture and architecture or walking my dog on a sunny day by the Brisbane River.
What does our tagline “Challenging Today. Reinventing Tomorrow” mean to you?
The tagline embodies what we try to achieve in every healthcare project – we’re constantly developing our body of knowledge to build upon what exists and innovate on how to deliver things differently for improved outcomes.
What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs?
I love that I have the ability to ask for specialist advice from around the globe just by calling a colleague in London or Boston. We have such a great network of consultants that we’re forever sharing projects and knowledge that enhances our teams’ skills and create a really engaging community.
About the interviewee
As a designer and health researcher in the architecture team, Shari Blanch helps the Jacobs team integrate evidence-based design principles in healthcare projects in order to improve health systems and the health of the population.
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