The Future of Healthcare Design: A Rising Star’s Perspective

04 October 2023
The Texas Children’s Hospital was expanded.

The full article was featured in the October 2023 issue of Healthcare Design Magazine.


Healthcare Design recently announced its 2023 Rising Star Awards, recognizing our own Jessalyn Nelson as one of seven trailblazing individuals shaping the future of healthcare design. Learn more about Jessalyn in her interview below. 

Path To Healthcare Design
While I hadn’t initially targeted healthcare design in school, I decided to study structural engineering with the desire to work on projects that were impactful, whether through function, scale, aesthetics, or other means. It began to click when I was serendipitously assigned to the Texas Children’s Hospital Legacy Tower expansion at the start of my career. I had further opportunities to work on a variety of healthcare projects, from new hospital campuses to small renovations and equipment load checks. My role on projects also expanded in interaction with the rest of the design team and clients. This grew my understanding of the unique needs of healthcare clients, and I have been able to step into project management responsibilities.

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Jessalyn Nelson

Most Rewarding Project To Date
I’m grateful for my introduction to healthcare design through the Texas Children’s Hospital Legacy Tower expansion, where I worked on various graduate engineer tasks, including the lateral model and column design. I also had the privilege of regularly walking the construction site to see week-by-week progress as the tower grew.

What Success Means To You
As a structural engineer, my goal is often to be behind the scenes by the time a project is completed, to know the impact that I’ve had throughout. Is the functionality enhanced by the systems we designed? Has the original vision flourished under my contributions? Did we provide an efficient yet sound base to meet budgetary needs? What alternatives did we open up for consideration? It can be easier to reflect on success at the end, but it’s important to take a breath in the thick of the process and appreciate the interim victories, as well. 

Industry Challenge On Your Radar
I would love to see more consideration of mass timber structures in healthcare. Mass timber structures are lightweight, and prefabricated components can increase speed of construction. It will not be the appropriate choice for every project, but putting it on the table in the early design stages for particular contexts can provide additional options, and eventually increase the use of mass timber as a standard practice.

Must-Have Skill For Healthcare Engineers
Understanding the big picture and learning what is most important to the client. Today, clients are looking for fast schedules, the least cost, and the least disruption to existing facilities. The challenge to the engineer is to provide structural solutions that respect these needs while maximizing future flexibility to allow for ever-changing equipment and space needs. 

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