Oklahoma City interior designer earns prestigious health care certificate

Kara McDonald of Miles Associates: Architecture Planning and Interiors passed the American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers Examination and earned the only AAHID Certificate in Oklahoma.
by Richard Mize Published: August 3, 2013

Kara McDonald took a kind of vision test and passed with flying colors — and lighting, fabrics, finish, furnishings and other elements of health care interior design.

Actually, it was the American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers Examination. McDonald, 33, an interior designer with Oklahoma City's Miles Associates: Architecture Planning and Interiors, is the first — and so far only — person in Oklahoma to earn the AAHID Certificate.

The exam covers acute care, ambulatory and outpatient care, long-term care, senior living, as well as medical, retail and hospitality support services, codes, guidelines and other aspects of health care interior design. Five years of experience, a portfolio review and professional references are required for anyone to attempt the exam.

McDonald's recent experience includes work at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center, the OU Children's Physicians Building and atrium, Presbyterian Tower and Edmond Medical Center.

Adding “health care” to “interior design” adds layers of concerns not addressed in, say, a regular office setting, such as infection control, patient health and safety and the welfare of physicians, staff and visitors, McDonald said, physical and emotional.

Thinking about the time all those people spend in a given space, and how they use it and respond to it, drives her vision, she said.

“When a lot of people think about architecture, they might not think about the experience of somebody in the space, how they see it. But you're at work or using that space more than you are at home, and so it needs to be fitting to what the environment is,” McDonald said.

Take a laboratory, for example.

“Somebody might think that that's more technical, just dry space. But it still can be uplifting and energetic to somebody that has to be standing on their feet for long hours while they're doing research,” she said.

Take a chair.

“Most people might not think you need a wider chair for a parent and a child, or a bariatric patient, or creating the function for each space that also makes those people more at ease,” McDonald said.

Take a hallway.

“We talk about experiences going all the way down to way finding or lighting, and creating little tricks to lighting,” she said. “If you're walking down a long corridor, not making an older patient feel like that corridor's going to go forever, creating different nodes, (so) they know to turn now,” or that a nurse station is just ahead.

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by Richard Mize
Real Estate Editor
Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked...
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