Healthcare Design Magazine Names Clemson Nursing Professor as Top Educator

Staff Report From South Carolina CEO

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Clemson University School of Nursing assistant professor Susan O’Hara recently was recognized by Healthcare Design Magazine as a “HCD 10” winner. She was named the top educator because of her teaching and academic contributions to the health care design field over the past year.

Healthcare Design’s “HCD 10” annually honors a health care design industry professional in each of the following categories: architect, interior designer, provider, clinician, facility manager, building professional, educator, researcher, team MVP and outstanding organization. O’Hara was named the top educator at at an awards luncheon at the 2019 Healthcare Design (HCD) Expo & Conference in New Orleans, Nov. 3-5, and was previously recognized at the HCD Forum in September.

O’Hara said this recognition is a great honor and testament to her dedication of weaving architecture and nursing together in academics.

“I am incredibly honored by this award,” O’Hara said. “After 40 years of nursing, with the last 20 in the field of health care design, I remain passionate about the role of nurses to create healing environments, whether in the inpatient, outpatient or home environments.”

O’Hara is founder of O’Hara HealthCare Consultants, which works to bring nurses’ perspectives into architecture, and she has worked throughout her career to bring the two fields closer together.

“My mission is to educate nurses on the importance and relevance of health care design in carrying out our professional responsibilities. The health care space is not just a place of healing, but creates healing,” O’Hara said.

She incorporates architecture into her community health nursing courses at Clemson, which focus on environmental impacts of hospital stays and outpatient care.

O’Hara also holds an appointment in Clemson’s School of Architecture, where she mentors and participates on project research committees and grant proposals with the Architecture + Health program. Additionally, she collaborates with the School of Architecture faculty on research about the impact of intensive care unit layouts on macrocognition – how teams cognitively adapt to complexity – and caring behavior.

She helped create the Clemson University Academy of Nursing for Excellence in Design with leaders in the nursing and health care design fields in industry, academia and the military. She led the academy in planning the inaugural International Nursing Conference for Excellence in Healthcare Design. Held this summer at the Clemson University Nursing building in Greenville, the conference drew approximately 130 people to discuss nursing’s role in health care architecture as well as present new research and network to form collaborations between nurses and architects.

O’Hara has also worked with the academy and the School of Architecture to develop a health care design certificate for professionals such as nurses, which was approved by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education in September.

Director of the Clemson School of Nursing and Chief Nursing Academic Officer Kathleen Valentine said she is proud of O’Hara’s accomplishments, adding that she is skilled in spanning the concepts of health and healing between both nursing and architecture. This is important as nursing is the diagnosis of human responses to health problems, which directly connects to health architecture’s focus on creating spaces for health and healing, Valentine said.

“As a discipline, nursing has four areas for research, education and practice: the environment, the person, health, human caring. Dr. O’Hara is leading our research focus on the environment and what it means to quality of life and well-being,” Valentine said. “We are very fortunate to have her as a member of our faculty. ”

O’Hara’s passion and work at Clemson University is what made her the choice for educator of the year, said Jennifer Silvis, editor-in-chief of Healthcare Design Magazine.

“Susan’s work throughout her career has helped to facilitate an important dialogue between two critical segments of this industry, teaching all of us the value that lies in cross-disciplinary collaboration. I’m delighted to honor her for this endeavor,” Silvis said.