Much of Seattle-based Felker’s work focuses on the design of behavioral health facilities.

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Tammy Felker

What do you do? My job at ZGF Architects [in Seattle] is to design health care spaces, including clinics and hospitals. Much of my work focuses on behavioral health facilities. With my dual background [in nursing] I am a bridge between the clinical staff and the architecture and construction team. I facilitate workshops with our clients helping them to envision their ideal patient-care environment and develop plans to support their vision. And sometimes, I provide first aid in our office.

How did you get started in that field? I was interested in architecture in high school, but in college I ended up in health sciences with a degree in nursing from the University of Virginia. I remained interested in architecture as a hobby, visiting historic buildings and sites. The hospital where I was working built a replacement hospital and it occurred to me that there was a need for a clinician on the architectural design team. I returned to graduate school, and I have a Master of Architecture from UW.

What’s a typical day like? Most days are filled with a variety of activities like meeting with clinical staff to test out the design of a patient care space in a full-scale mock-up by simulating different patient scenarios to meeting with the department of health or the construction team. I am usually working on several different projects so I may have one project just starting and another that is under construction. My role is to bring all the different players together to deliver a successful project. The ability to speak health care and architecture and construction is an invaluable skill to have when working on these incredibly complex projects.

What’s the best part of the job? The people I have the privilege of working with. Health care people (clinicians, architects and contractors) are the best. The team is all motivated to provide the best and safest patient-care environment possible. After all, this is where some of the most significant events of our lives occur at times when we are at our most vulnerable. In behavioral health, the physical environment can play a major role in the delivery of care.

What surprises people about what you do? Some people are surprised to learn that I am licensed in both professions. … [People] often ask how I ended up changing professions. For me, it has been a natural evolution. I am a better health care architect because of my nursing background.

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