Focus on Leadership: Jocelyn Stroupe merged her love of art and science into a career in healthcare design - June 2020

Interview by Kemp Harr

For Jocelyn Stroupe, director of healthcare interiors for CannonDesign in Chicago, Illinois, the path to design wasn’t a straight line. In her youth, she’d been fond of the arts and even took an interior design class in high school. But her love of the sciences and the mentorship of a role model nudged her toward the medical field instead.

After graduating high school, she packed up for Ohio State University, her sights set on a degree in pharmacy. But her passion for the field waned. One day, glancing through the school newspaper, she saw an article about interior design that resonated with her, and her plans changed. Stroupe earned a degree in interior design from the University of Tennessee and enjoys working in a field where she is able to marry her two passions: arts and sciences.

Q: What led to your focus on healthcare?
Healthcare found me. While I always was interested in medicine and science, I spent the first ten years of my career designing a variety of different types of projects in corporate, banking, institutional and some healthcare. I eventually got the opportunity to work on a large project for the University of Chicago and discovered I loved the complexity and detail involved in healthcare projects. I never looked back.

Q: Tell us about your design philosophy.
Good design has the ability to transform lives. Those who work, visit and are cared for in healthcare environments are at their most vulnerable and in times of greatest need. That’s a responsibility that drives me and one I take very seriously. I derive inspiration for spatial and interior design work from many typologies but find various themes in nature particularly fascinating-patterns and color, relationships between humans and the natural world, the changing phases of plant life. These studies provide keen insights about placemaking and the design needs of people. Overall, I seek to create positive experiences for patients, family and staff.

Q: How has healthcare design evolved in the 25 years you’ve focused on it? What are a few of the biggest changes?
When I first started in healthcare design, the options from a design perspective were quite limited. Design was all about function. Products were rather utilitarian, and those that could meet the performance criteria were limited.

That began to change when healthcare providers recognized that consumers make choices about where to receive care. This evolution continued as it was recognized that women made most of the decisions for healthcare for their families. The environment, convenience and personalized care became important. Along with this was a movement started by the Center for Health Design that challenged an approach to the built environment that was institutional and advocated for “healing environments,” with the belief that the environment has an impact on how patients heal. Their focus was about building a case based on evidence that the built environment improves outcomes.

We are now in an era of accountability on all levels. Financially, we are considering the return on investment. Operationally, we are asking, is it effective and efficient? And design-wise, we consider, will there be an improvement seen in outcomes?

Q: Tell us about your success in using biophilia in healthcare facilities to improve the patient experience.
The connection to nature is inherent in humans. I’ve incorporated biophilic principles into several projects with success. In a current project, we are using a selection of nature images that will be incorporated into various design elements-artwork, wall panels and signage. Rather than use a series of images that are of one scale or subject matter, we have approached this solution through the use of fractals. As one moves through the space, images are of a macroscale, and as you move into smaller, more intimate spaces, the images are of a microscale. It’s adding quite a bit of interest and variety to the design where patients will benefit.

Q: When and why is it important to use natural products versus faux products?
Natural products can provide a textural quality, depth of color and character that is difficult to reproduce in a synthetic material. There have been significant advancements in technologies that enable synthetic materials to look natural. In places where the material can be touched, it is important to be authentic as much as possible. For example, in a lobby space where wood is used as a feature wall, I think it should be veneer. Many natural products cannot withstand the cleaning and disinfection required in healthcare, so that presents a very great challenge.

Q: Tell us about your mentors and how they contributed to who Jocelyn is today.
I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career to have strong women as mentors and leaders. Angie Lee hired me at OWPP for my first large-scale healthcare project. She gave me room to grow as a design professional and as a leader of staff. Deb Sheehan, with whom I worked for 20 years while at CannonDesign, taught me to think beyond the boundaries of a given role and to pursue ideas relentlessly. I’ve learned a lot from both of them about how to navigate an industry that is often male dominated. They have taught me about compassion and caring in the workplace, about how to voice my opinions and be heard, as well as how to lead.

Q: What project are you most proud of and why?
The CHUM (Centre hospitalier de l’Univerisite de Montreal) project in Montreal is one of the projects I feel most proud of. At the time, it was the largest healthcare project in design and construction in North America, and I had never worked on a project of that size or complexity. Being able to organize the project at multiple levels-the way our team was organized, how we approached design, the way the building was organized and its design language-were all big challenges that I found very interesting to solve. We had many requirements to comply with, including a tight budget, and at the end of the project, it was quite amazing to see what was accomplished.

The selection of flooring materials for this project was a very indepth process. We were required to comply with the outlined performance specifications, as well as specific color selections that were to be compliant with Universal Accessibility Guidelines and could support those with visual acuity issues. There were specific visual contrast requirements that we had to meet with both the color selections as well as application of each color relative to the adjacent wall surfaces. We found the Gerflor Mipolam product to be a good solution for these reasons.

Another specific requirement we had was to specify flooring to be used in their support services areas where the hospital was using AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) to deliver supplies. The requirements for this purpose led our team to specify Altro Maxis.

Q: What type of patient care facility is the most difficult to design, and what are some of the biggest challenges you face?
We design many behavioral health facilities, and these can be some of the most challenging. Of most importance is to ensure the safety of those who are being cared for, as well as those providing care. It can be challenging to develop a design that is supportive and comforting under such restrictions. This is a facility type that requires a great deal of knowledge and creativity.

Q: Tell us about the types of flooring you like to specify and why? What problems do they solve or how do they add to the healing process?
From a performance standpoint, I prefer sheet products to tile because they meet the infection prevention and maintenance needs best, particularly in acute settings. All flooring types need to be evaluated carefully for their use, compliance with codes and in conjunction with the cleaning and maintenance protocols of a given organization.

For public spaces, I like terrazzo. It is easy to maintain and has a long life. The ability to add pattern and color are endless.

Flooring can provide acoustical properties, which enable a quieter environment for inpatients to rest and recover. Products with a variety of color options can be used to introduce patterns that can assist with wayfinding. Other products that emulate natural materials can add warmth and comfort.

Q: Are you satisfied with the available flooring options? What more would you like to see in flooring?
I would like to see more attention paid to flooring options that do not contain PVC yet can meet the performance criteria for inpatient environments. At the same time, how a healthcare organization handles cleaning and disinfection needs to be better understood by product manufacturers. There is a wide variety of ways facilities approach their maintenance programs, and the product and maintenance must be aligned in order to be successful.

Q: What do you do to sharpen your saw, to become better informed, so that you can offer your client the best solution available?
I attend national conferences focused on healthcare and take advantage of webinars that address issues across the interior design industry. I find inspiration in published projects, particularly those in industries other than healthcare.

Q: What role does sustainability play in healthcare design?
In healthcare design, we primarily focus on creating an environment where people can heal. This can be applied to those who are patients, their families or those who work in the facility. As healthcare looks beyond the model of caring for those who are sick, we are evolving to help people be well. These ideas relate very strongly to sustainable practices in that we want to design an environment that is healthy and contributes to the health of the community.

Q: Of the many accolades that you’ve received, which one has meant the most to you and why?
In 2018, I was the recipient of the Healthcare Design 10 Interior Designer of the Year award. It was such an honor to be recognized by the industry that I love.

Q: What is on the horizon when it comes to how healthcare facilities will change to meet the needs of the future?
The recent events associated with COVID-19 have accelerated many changes in healthcare. We are seeing wide adoption of telehealth that will continue. The impact of this on facilities will be fewer exam rooms for outpatient care and more spaces dedicated for providers to conduct telehealth visits.

I also see waiting areas changing significantly. The waiting area where everyone is crowded together is gone-there will be fewer seats spaced apart moving forward. This will force operational efficiencies that will allow for little to no waiting space.

Q: What do you like to do when you aren’t
focused on work?
I enjoy being outdoors; I like to play golf and to garden. Even though I travel for work quite a bit, I do enjoy traveling. I also enjoy spending time with my grandson. He loves to build things and told me he wants to be an architect. He’s quite amazing!

See you on the other side.

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