Thursday, April 23, 2009

The circle of life, intern style

Working on Frontier County Hospital (FCH) will be unusual in a few ways.  While this will be my third or fourth surgery suite, it will be my first ICU.  A hospital is a place where the circle of life sits in stark relief every day, and in no place is it more in-your-face than in an ICU.  A grieving room is required in every ICU per the AIA's Healthcare Guidelines, as are family lounges with pantries and napping areas.  Some hospitals even provide overnight sleeping accommodations on the ICU floor if families travel from far away and suddenly find a family member in the ICU after a surgical procedure.  Programmatically and operationally, it will also be unusual in that FCH's surgery department does a lot of C-sections, so instead of locating their remodeled surgery suite near the regular med/surg patient beds, we'll be locating it near their labor and delivery/women's/nursery area.

This project will be the first time I actually have an intern working for/with me.  Every other project I've ever worked on at Design Associates either involved me as part of the team working for another architect, or I alone was the team.  I've wondered for a while about how to work with people who work under you.  Derek, Elliot, and Norman have all been Job Captains over interns.  Matter of fact, one of my first real projects was as an intern working for Norman right after he got his license.  So, I have an intern working for me.  Intern Kimmy got her M.Arch a few years ago and has been at DA for almost two years now.  She really proved herself on some small commercial projects, and she has lots of good, solid experience doing construction administration, which is rare for an intern.  Now, as I understand it, her commercial projects have slowed down due to the economy, and she still needs some planning/schematic design and design development hours for her IDP so she can sit for the ARE.  Plus, she works on Bosley's projects, so putting her on FCH just makes sense.

Here's what's really cool, though.  Back when I started at DA in the summer of 2000, I flat out didn't have enough to do.  Sometimes it was that my projects got put on hold, sometimes I just got done with what I was given to do too quickly.  Either way, I always seemed to have some extra time.  So, when Sutherland emailed around the office looking for someone to mentor a high school intern who would be learning about architecture for high school class credit, I readily volunteered.  The first high school intern I got in fall of 2000 was a decent gal, but she realized she didn't want to do architecture and got sideways for a bit.  The third intern I got in fall of 2001 was a young man who had a horrible, horrible home life and was having a hard time getting school and his internship and his afterschool job done.  I encouraged him to move out as soon as he could.  But my second intern, the one I got in spring of 2001, she was magic.  The more she learned, the more she wanted to learn.  She was sharp.  Her favorite word was a calm but interested, "Sweet."  When she presented her final project to a jury of interns and young architects at DA, the jury was blown away.  Guy, who was on her jury (we were dating but not living together at the time) pronounced as good as anything he'd ever seen in the fourth-year studios at Kansas State.

My second intern was Intern Kimmy.

So imagine how fantastic it was to hear from her every couple of years: a letter saying "I'm going to this college", a watercolored postcard from Italy, a Christmas card about getting accepted to grad school.  A few years ago, I got an email from her asking if DA was hiring.  I said I thought so, emailed Sutherland, reminded him of how awesome she was when she interned at DA, and the rest is history.  And now I get to work with her.  Today she taught me how to use Adoble Illustrator; I taught her how hospitals plan for the future in new buildings and try to adapt in old Hill-Burton era facilities.  I email her a PDF copy of the 1994 ADA Standards of Design; she emails me a few tracks from a cool new band she saw in concert last weekend.  I try to teach her about healthcare architecture, she tries to keep me from being a fuddy-duddy.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chat with someone in our accounting department, near which Intern Kimmy used to sit.  I asked him for a copy of a certain document, and when he emailed it to me, he typed: "By the way, I used to sit near Intern Kimmy, and I thought you should know how many good things she had to say about you.  She mentioned more than once what a role model you are to her, and she thinks very highly of you."

[snif]  Sweet.


Miss Kitty said...

Thanks. Now I have that damn song stuck in my head.

xtine said...

That is WAY cool.

2H said...

Pixie... role model, mentor - fine human being. Down the road we all forget the details of the projects we worked on but the thing that remains with us forever is the experience of those rare individuals that take the time to make sure we are learning and are inspired. We never forget those who are patient enough to watch us awkwardly flap about as interns knowing one day we will be gracefully flying.