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SEPTEMBER 24-26, 2024
Austin Convention Center - Austin, Texas

Advisory Board Back in Chicago

At the end of January, advisory boards members once again met in Chicago for a day long brainstorming session. Over 20 members of the all-volunteer group traveled to Chicago to meet in person with another 9 members joining us virtually.  The primary goal of the advisory board meeting is to ensure that the Symposium addresses the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing the healthcare design and construction industry today. We start with asking the group “what is keeping you up at night?”

This year the rule was you could not say you “staff shortages” or “too much work” because everyone is in that same boat. One of the main points of discussion was the pressing need to effectively pass on the accumulated expertise of the baby boomers to the younger generation of healthcare design professionals. Millennials, characterized by their digital fluency, innovative thinking, and collaborative approach, represent the future of the industry. However, there are a lot of challenges including with the transfer of knowledge between these generations including differing communication styles, technology integration, cultural shifts and retention of institutional knowledge.

Baby boomers prefer face-to-face interactions and formal communication channels, while millennials gravitate towards digital platforms and informal networks. While the boomers may possess a deep domain knowledge they lack familiarity with the latest technologies shaping healthcare delivery or even offer productivity.  The meeting underscored the importance of fostering a culture of continuous learning and mentorship within healthcare and AEC organizations.  As baby boomers retire or transition into advisory roles, there is a risk of losing institutional knowledge vital for maintaining operational efficiency and quality of care.  Finding a way to bridge the communication gap, integrate new technologies, creating platforms for intergenerational collaboration and strategies to capture institutional knowledge will be critical as this transition continues.

In 2023 we launched the Symposium Emerging Leader Scholarship program to give recognition to individuals with less than 10 years (non-consecutive) of experience in healthcare design and construction including research and/or education.  We had nearly 25 scholarship recipients at the event in Charlotte and they were invited to interact and engage with our advisory board with the hope that we’ll not only support their professional development but also find the next generation of advisory board members who will help us continue to shape the event in a way that serves their needs.

These conversations are going to need to continue not only at board meetings but at the annual event each fall. We also hope to incorporate sessions that talk about healthcare organizations and AEC firms that are finding ways to effectively bridge the communication gap, use new technologies, create platforms for the intergenerational collaboration and capture institutional knowledge. The future of the industry depends on it.

Best,
Jenabeth

Jenabeth Ferguson
Vice President, Symposium & Expo
Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo

PS. If you have a suggestion or comment about the Symposium please feel free to reach out at any time at [email protected].

How Are You?

How often a day do you get asked “how are you?” and how often do you quickly, without thinking rattle off a “good” or “fine” and just move on. Lately, I’ve found myself trying to answer honestly. And sometimes that answer is not great. Or, I’m having a good morning but really, it’s been hard lately. I’ve also been trying to listen intently when other people answer the question and let them tell their story.

With so many of us working remotely these exchanges that used to take place over the “water cooler” and now they take place on Zoom or MS Teams. It seems even more important that in those settings you take the few minutes before jumping into the agenda to chat and let everyone give their personal update. It fosters better teams and relationships. And more importantly it gives us all a moment of connection.

As I’ve been offering my real answer to the how are you question lately, I’ve been more and more surprised by the responses I’m receiving. Someone the other day said to me, “gone are the days of parties and weddings, now we’re talking about divorce and illnesses”. Unfortunately, it seems true, especially as so many of us are taking care of our aging parents.

On the flip side though, if you ask the question and want more than the typical glib response, you also hear the funny stories and joy in people’s life and sometimes that joy comes out of the difficult situations. My Mom has Alzheimer’s and over a year ago we placed her in a memory care facility. It’s not easy and this is certainly not how she wanted to be spending her life. However, there is great joy and certainly a lot of funny stories to share. Just last week they took the group on an outing to a Winter Wonderland and on the way home asked my Mom if she had a good day, her response was “well no s–t I did”! And then the next thing out of her mouth was, where are the muffins you went back in to get for us? While my Mother may not remember what year it is or who is president she does not forget if she has a chance to eat a baked good.

With the world a heavy place right now, really ask the people in your life how they are and listen for their response. In this holiday season, find the funny and joy.

Wishing you and yours a happy holiday and healthy New Year.
Jenabeth

Vice President, Symposium & Expo
Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo

Calling All Emerging Leaders

Lately I seem to receive a retirement notice almost every week. Or, in more upsetting cases I receive word that industry leaders I met when I first became aware of the Symposium in the mid 90’s have passed away. Just this spring alone we lost Robin Guenther and Derek Parker.

On the flip side, every advisory board meeting we’ve held in the past two years we end up in conversation about the dearth of up-and-coming talent.  Conversations range from how folks are recruiting, training and of course keeping emerging leaders within their organizations.  Actually, these conversations started before COVID and of course since then have reached a frenetic pace.

During this time, the advisory board members within their respective organizations and project teams have been identifying emerging leaders and inviting them as their guest to attend the annual Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo.  We’ve welcomed them to the Symposium community, and also listened to their feedback on what they want to get out of attending an annual event. Last year in Long Beach, we had a couple of tables set aside at the opening breakfast for any emerging leader who were attending that wanted to meet each other, and also meet a couple of our board members who could help guide their experience. Those tables were overflowing, and we needed more seats which was a great problem to have and lead us to take the next step forward in 2023.

Earlier this month we launched the Symposium Emerging Leaders Scholarship Program, which is aimed at giving recognition to those individuals with less than 10 years (nonconsecutive) of experience in healthcare design and construction including research and/or education. The recognition includes attending the 2023 HFSE in Charlotte, North Carolina September 19-21 and participating in all activities surrounding the event.

We are very excited to start receiving submissions and selecting the first class of recipients.  Our hope is this is the beginning of fostering the next generation of leaders who will take the Symposium forward for another 36 years.  To learn more about the program please click here and be sure to share it with the leadership in your organization and the emerging leaders you know.

Be well,
Jenabeth

Jenabeth Ferguson
Vice President, Symposium Director
Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo

P.S. Have a thought about the Symposium? Please feel free to contact me at any time at [email protected].

The Conference Program is here!

By Jenabeth Ferguson

Our 2023 conference program was unveiled earlier this week.  Have you had a chance to look it over yet?  I am really looking forward to this year’s program and hope you take some time to check out the compelling sessions we have put together.

We have folks from Penn Medicine, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Memorial Hermann, Rush University Medical Center, University of California Irvine, Boston Children’s Hospital and Mercy Health coming to share their stories and expertise with us in September.  Some of our “fan favorites” are back like Frank Pitts with architecture+, Lynn Aguilera with Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, Bob Gesing with Trinity:NAC and Victoria Navarro with Milwaukee County Department of Administrative Services.

As you know, this year we are heading to Charlotte, North Carolina which is experiencing a population boom which the major health-care systems are matching by investing more than $1 billion into new hospitals.  We’ll be hearing from some of those providers such as Duke Health, Atrium Health, FirstHealth of the Carolinas and Novant Health.  In addition, we’re also going to hear about international projects with lessons from African Hospitals as well as Cairo and Mexico.

With almost 200 speaker that is thousands upon thousands of years of expertise that you can learn from when you attend our conference program. Speakers who will be in the room with you and you can chat with after the session or on the exhibit floor or before our keynotes.

These are just a few examples of the education you will receive by attending this year’s event.  You can see the entire program at a glance by clicking here.  Keep in mind we have yet to announce our keynotes or facility tours  . . . so stay tuned!

Check in on others!

Around New Year’s, someone sent me a link to psychologist Naomi Holdt’s Facebook Post about why we are all feeing so utterly exhausted.  It resonated with me and as I shared it with several different friend and family group texts the response was overwhelmingly “oh that is why I feel this way”.  Her primary point was that we all were on high alert and in crisis mode for 2 years, and then leapt back into life in 2022 trying to make up for lost time in every single area of our lives without having properly processed the trauma of what we’d been through.

In Massachusetts, where I live, since New Year’s there have been quite a few high-profile tragedies that involved people killing their own family members and in some cases children.  When these happen so close to your home it’s very hard not to be impacted.  All of the cases have of course in one way or another involved someone with mental health issues that either were not treated or treated incorrectly and lead to unimaginable results. In every instance, the law enforcement officers reporting on what happened have ended by saying something to the effect of if you need help there are resources and if you are worried about someone, please check in.

Over the years at the Symposium, we have shined a light on mental health with sessions about design and construction of behavioral health facilities, keynote speeches from individuals who have survived tragedy and the battle they faced mentally as well as physically and by naming non-profit organizations who bolster awareness surrounding mental health as our charitable organization. We will continue to do our part in bringing these discussions to our annual event.  We will continue to drive the conversation within the industry on creating better behavioral health environments.

Today, however, though I’m focusing more on all of you as individuals. It’s been a long few years.  All of you who work in healthcare supporting the front-line workers;  who had your kids at home for months on end and now back in the classroom and maybe still feeling the effects; whose parents are aging and their care is now falling on you; who have so much work but not enough resources to do it whether that be people or supplies; or countless other stress points.  Be kind to yourself.  Check in on others.  Especially those that are seemingly strong and always in control.

Be well,
Jenabeth

Jenabeth Ferguson
Vice President, Symposium Director
Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo

P.S. Have a thought about the Symposium? Please feel free to contact me at any time at [email protected].

Lasagna Love

Writing this column is sometimes a challenge in December when there is so much going on. Wrapping up year end projects, trying to clear the inbox before time off for the holidays and getting ready for the holidays of course. I often come up with inspiration from what is going on in my life and tie it back to the Symposium. Instead, this month, I’m going to share my story about a grassroots project I got involved with almost two years ago. If you think back to January 2021, it was a pretty dark time for a lot of reasons. One of the ways I survived COVID lockdown and the many, many months of when it was safer at home, was cooking.

I love to cook. It is often how I relax, and it is how take care of the people I care about. Like a lot of you I cooked a lot during COVID, but I really dove into learning new recipes and getting a lot better at techniques I had only dabbled in previously. I was special ordering food online from all sorts of sources to recreate meals I’d had in restaurants or trying recipes I had wanted to attempt for years. It really was a lot of fun and saved my sanity. And then one day I saw a social media post about Lasagna Love.

Lasagna Love is a global nonprofit and grassroots movement that aims to positively impact communities by connecting neighbors with neighbors through homemade meal delivery. They also seek to eliminate stigmas associated with asking for help when it is needed most. Such a simple concept and talk about a way to directly give back to someone in your own community.

I signed up immediately and before I knew it, my Fridays were filled with cooking lasagnas and driving to strangers homes and leaving a hot meal on their steps. It was such a meaningful way to do something for others. In the past 8 months as life has gotten back to a more pre-pandemic pace, I haven’t been able to make as many lasagnas as I’d like. In fact, at one point, I spoke to my regional leader about everything that was going on in my life, including the increased level of care of mother was needing at the time, she suggested that I needed a lasagna made for me. It seemed weird to accept. My instinct was to refuse. And then I remembered the advice I had given to people in my life time and time again . . it is ok to ask for help. I’m terrible at taking it myself but this time I did. And so one Friday afternoon a Lasagna Love volunteer showed up at my house with a lasagna.

The good news is that in recent weeks I’ve been back to delivering lasagnas myself. Last week I delivered to a woman who texted me later she shared it with an elderly neighbor. It truly warmed my heart. Tomorrow I’ll be dropping off a hot lasagna to a mother of 3 whose husband has been picking up extra shifts to support their family.

Every year at the Symposium through our raffle we make a donation to charitable organization supporting worthy causes. Like most of you, as the year end approaches I make sure I’ve supported the organizations that are near and dear to my heart. All of this is important but what I truly value about Lasagna Love is the direct impact it has on someone who for whatever reason needs a little help.

As you are rushing around this time of year, make sure you are also stopping and thinking about what you can do to give back in one way or another to someone who needs a little help.

Wishing you and yours the best this holiday season!
Jenabeth

Jenabeth Ferguson
Vice President, Symposium Director
Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo

Thank You!

Last month we gathered in Long Beach for the 35th Annual Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo and what a tremendous success it was – with incredible buzz and high energy, compelling keynotes, conference sessions, networking and much more! I kicked off our event sharing some of my personal history with the Symposium and also how it has impacted my family. I thought I would use this space this month to share what I told the audience, with our entire Symposium community as I know not all of you were there in Long Beach.

1998 was the first time I became aware of the Symposium on Healthcare Design (our former name), and I was early in my career producing events, so I wasn’t always focused on the purpose of each event, but the Symposium was different. As the daughter of an engineer, I certainly could appreciate the impact of design on the experiences in spaces.

One year later the Symposium was to take place in Boca Raton, Florida in September but Hurricane Floyd had other ideas. We rescheduled the event three months later in Orlando and for the very first time I learned how to cancel and relaunch an event; skills I didn’t really need again until 2020. Back in 1999, I went to the Symposium and was asked to lead one of the tours and we went to Celebration Health.  Like all of you know, it’s great to talk about healing environments and how design impacts them but there is nothing like seeing it in person. Meanwhile, back home my family was moving my grandmother with Alzheimer’s to a nursing home so when I got home and first visited her, I saw the good and bad about where she was now living. My family thought I was crazy when I said the nursing station was in the wrong location.

Jumping ahead to this past winter, I was once again faced with a family member with Alzheimer’s needing to be placed in a facility.  This time it was my mother and I have been her primary caregiver so the responsibility of picking the right place was on my shoulders. I armed myself with everything I knew about Alzheimer’s and almost 20 years of my career solely focused on the Symposium.  All the hospitals and healthcare facilities across this country I have spent time in, all the sessions I have programmed, all the conversations I have had with all of you.  I felt bad for the folks I was meeting with because they were fully prepared to talk to a daughter looking for some place for their mother, which was a situation they had seen far too many times, but a daughter whose work focuses on healthcare design that was a whole other level of critique.

I visited five facilities and narrowed it down the best two. I will just tell you about one that didn’t make the cut. I met with the woman for over an hour and was really impressed with their programs and philosophies.  We walk into the memory care area, and I notice the residents’ apartments are all down a hallway with zero line of sight to the common areas.  As we walk down this endless hall where all the doors look the same there are handwritten signs on the walls telling ‘John Smith your room is this way’.  And I thought bad design negates all the best intentions in the world. In the end we were fortunate enough to select a facility super close to my home with some very good design aspects.

What I wanted to say to all of you is thank you for the pushing and questioning and changing you’ve done in the past 20 years to make the place I put my Mom so much better than the one my grandmother was in, which was really my Mom’s biggest fear.

Be well,
Jenabeth

Jenabeth Ferguson
Vice President, Symposium Director
Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo

Networking in Long Beach!

By Jenabeth Ferguson

In just over a month, we will all be gathered at the 35th Annual Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo. We have quite a lineup this year over two and a half days, including 3 keynotes and over 50 sessions featuring a roster of over 160 industry leaders speaking, an exhibit hall packed with companies eager to show you their latest products and services and so much more. You can see all our offerings and how much we’ve jammed into the schedule here.

I want you to register for the event if you have not already and come to Long Beach for all the education and sourcing of innovative products and solutions in our exhibit hall. I also know how important networking with your industry peers is, and how much more important in-person networking has become in the past several years. I thought I would share our top three networking events that you need to make sure are on your schedule when at the Symposium in Long Beach this September.

  1. Opening Reception and Symposium Party! Talk about an event highlight. It is your first chance to see all the exhibitors and talk with them about their latest products and services. We’ll be serving drinks and appetizers so you can catch up with your fellow attendees. The Symposium Party also features our annual raffle, where you can buy tickets to win prizes ranging from Apple products to Kate Spade bags to Amazon gift cards and so much more. The best part is 100% of the proceeds from the raffle go to benefit a charitable organization, and this year we’ll be supporting Algalita. Their mission is not to pick trash out of the sea. It’s to fundamentally shift our way of thinking on land. They empower young people to think critically, demand action and be agents for change. When we educate, the next generation responds with solutions. They get behind a cause that has a wide-ranging impact, and they support it.
  2. Ice Cream Social! This is your last chance to visit with exhibitors and thank them for their support of the Symposium. And to make it a little more tempting we provide ice cream as a mid-afternoon snack for all in attendance. Feel like a kid again, grab a sweet treat and make one last circle around the exhibit floor.
  3. Happy Hour! Now this is the time to get away from the convention center, maybe change into a little more Southern California attire and check out a local watering hole. This year we’ll be heading to the Portuguese Bend Distilling which is within walking distance from the hotels and a gastropub celebrating all things boozy, with elaborate taproom & New American eats.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer and I will see you in Long Beach very soon!

Be well,
Jenabeth

Jenabeth Ferguson
Vice President, Symposium Director

Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo

PS. Have a question or comment, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]

Top 3 Things

By Jenabeth Ferguson

We are just under 3 months from our 2022 event and there is a lot going on as we’re continuing to make announcements of new developments. I thought I’d take advantage of this space to let you know my top 3 things I am looking forward to as part of this year’s event.

#3 Healthcare Providers Only Roundtable! For the fourth year, we are offering the Healthcare Providers Only Roundtable. The purpose of this roundtable is to create an environment for individuals employed by a hospital or healthcare system who oversee capital construction projects to gather and openly exchange ideas. Last year, I stuck my head into the room during the roundtable discussion and it was really rewarding to see owners together talking to their peers from all across the country and relating to each other’s challenges. It’s an unique opportunity we provide and I’m very thankful we are able to do so each year.

#2 Community Health! We’re offering four sessions this year on Wednesday that deal with health in communities that we don’t always talk about. There will be two sessions discussing communities helping the homeless transition out of homelessness. It’s a conversation we started last year in Austin, and I’m thrilled we’re continuing. The other two sessions talk about two underserved communities: indigenous people in Vancouver, British Columbia and Alaskan Natives. These are sessions close to my heart as my father was Canadian and my brother in law (and both my nieces) are Alaskan Native.

#1 Long Beach! It’s been a long time since the Symposium was in California and we’re very excited to be coming back. 35 years ago, the Symposium was held for the first time in Southern California so it’s appropriate that we’re coming back to this rich area of the country for both healthcare and design. Long Beach is easily accessible as there are three airports all within 30 miles and it has a great public transportation system. And of course the beach is right there so be sure to take some time outside of the event schedule and visit the area.

Enjoy your summer and make plans to join us in Long Beach, California this fall!

Be well,
Jenabeth

Jenabeth Ferguson
Vice President, Symposium Director
Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo

PS. Have a question or comment, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]

Reunited and it feels so good

In January of 2020, the advisory board met like it has at the beginning of the year in Chicago for the past 15 years. The subject of COVID came up a couple of times and there was a news alert that the first case had been verified in Chicago at the time we were there. We all left, said we’ll see you in May in Boston as that is our second board meeting each year, and never imagined we’d go so long between seeing each other in person. As a group we meet twice a year but outside of those settings between the annual HFSE event and other industry events groups of us can be together as many as 5 or 6 times a year. This past December a lot of us were in Austin but not everyone as some folk’s organizations were still not traveling or people had personal situations where they were still not being around large groups.

The Friday before last, over two years later, twenty-eight of us once again gathered in Chicago. The energy was palpable. The friendly banter and teasing felt so familiar. The enthusiasm and passion for our industry and what comes next after all we’ve been through was inspiring. That may have been the most amazing part of it all. We all know what healthcare organizations and the partners that support them have been through. Nobody has been untouched or unchanged. Everyone talked about right now facing staffing and supply shortages and figuring out how to still provide healthcare. And yet there was optimism in the room. There was hope and determination to continue to figure out how to fix some of our most pressing issues from climate change to mental health to reaching underserved communities. Each person contributing in their own way. Intelligent discussions happening and you could see what one person said would spur another to scribble something down or type up a note which often was an email or text to me with an expanded thought on something we’d discussed.

Let me go back for a second to the friendly banter and teasing that was the true delight of the day. These people who enjoy each other’s company coming together and catching up after such a long hiatus. Hearing stories of kids that it seems just yesterday were learning to walk now learning to drive; announcements of new grandchildren, engagements, and graduations; funny anecdotes of what we all learned during the pandemic and so much more. As professionally accomplished as our board is and as varied the backgrounds, what always strikes me about the group is how much everyone enjoys each other’s company and comradery.

It was a special day. And it gave us a lot of great ideas for this September’s event in Long Beach. Stay tuned next week as we’ll be announcing our conference program.

Be well,
Jenabeth

Jenabeth Ferguson
Vice President, Symposium Director

Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo

PS. Have a question or comment, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]

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