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Things I tell people who want to become a designer in healthcare

Once or twice a week, I get emails from people who are interested in getting into healthcare design (usually UX design). I find myself saying the same things to many of them, so I thought I’d compile those nuggets here.

Healthcare is an awesome place to be a designer

I currently work in a hospital environment; there, we have unparalleled access to patients, visitors, healthcare providers, and other staff. For me, being able to help real people in my own community is rewarding; the positive impact of design is very real and tangible. Here’s more on why hospitals need designers and what I do on a daily basis.

Finally, there’s plenty of demand for designers in healthcare (in startups, bigger companies, healthcare institutions, and more.) Your prospects will be good, especially in larger cities.

How can you get started in design and UX (User Experience)?

You don’t necessarily have to go to graduate school, though. That takes a lot of time and money. I know people who have participated in one of the short-term UX Design Immersive courses, like the one offered by General Assembly.

If schooling is a path you want to take, I can’t tell you which school to choose — you’ll have to do the research to figure out which one would be the best fit. I highly recommend speaking with the folks at the program; they can give you more details and even put you in touch with current students and alumni.

To break into healthcare design, you don’t necessarily need prior health-related experience. But you’ll need to demonstrate your design process and your ability to solve problems within complex systems. Design schooling (or training) helps you refine your process, better understand the design tools available to you, and learn to design with others. It also gives you some great stories to tell during interviews, and it helps you build a portfolio — more on portfolios below.

What if schooling isn’t an option?

What is life like as a designer?

To experience what daily life is like as a designer, you might explore whether there are local organizations who have designers on staff that may let you shadow them for a day. Or find a local designer and offer to take them out for coffee.

What’s it like working in a hospital?

Do you need a portfolio?

Here are all the above links + more, brought to you by Medium’s EmbedFeature™:

On design, and breaking into design

(Just read everything by Julie Zhuo; I promise it will enrich you and I consider her one of my aspirational spirit animals.)

On healthcare + design

Staying updated on healthcare + technology

Events

There are also lots of diverse design events — many of these have student rates! If you’re a student, make use of that. Here are a few I’ve loved:

Schooling

Here’s mine:

Here are some recommended by friends of mine:

And my blog post about how my schooling helped me be a better designer:

Here’s the General Assembly UX immersive:

I hope this is helpful for you

Also, you are going to be awesome. Designing in healthcare is numero uno.

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Thank you to a few of my helpful healthcare + design brethren who gave input on this article: Sean Malloy, Lenny Naar, and James Turner

Written by

Designer and researcher focusing on healthcare; founder of Pictal Health; autoimmune patient; chocolate-eater. katiemccurdy.com and pictalhealth.com

Designer and researcher focusing on healthcare; founder of Pictal Health; autoimmune patient; chocolate-eater. katiemccurdy.com and pictalhealth.com

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