College of Architecture, Art and Construction

School of Architecture Ph.D. student works to break barriers in pediatric ICUs


Swati Goel, a Ph.D. student of Clemson’s in Planning, Design and the Built Environment program.

Swati Goel, a doctoral student of Clemson’s Ph.D. in Planning, Design and the Built Environment (PDBE), recently became the Foundation for Health Environments Research (FHER) 2023-24 Griffin/McKahan/Zilm (GMZ) Graduate Fellow.

The GMZ fellowship was established to encourage research related to the programming and planning of healthcare facilities and to advance the knowledge of planning and design for healthcare environments. According to the FHER, the fellowship allows recipients to better understand the team environment dynamics and what makes project delivery successful.

Pediatric intensive care unit design barriers

“This award demonstrates that Swati’s work is highly relevant and important to the field,” explained Anjali Joseph, director of the Center for Health Facilities Design and Testing (CHFDT). “I am confident that the monetary support provided by this award will not only help her conduct her study across multiple healthcare facilities but also disseminate her findings broadly so she can positively impact the healthcare design field.”

Goel’s research, “Investigating the Environmental Barriers and Facilitators to Family-centered Rounds in Pediatric Intensive Care Units: Mapping the Spatial Configuration of the Rounding Process,” explores how the built environment of a pediatric intensive care unit facilitates or deters family and staff participation and engagement during family-centered rounds that occur every morning.

Joseph explained, “We have all been patients or family members of patients receiving care in the hospital and are acutely aware of the challenges with understanding and supporting our family members while also learning how we might take care of them once they are discharged.”

However, Joseph and Goel believe that hospitals are poorly designed and operated. According to Joseph, this leads to significant issues in supporting patient and family engagement during care.

During the summer of 2023, Goel traveled to pediatric ICUs, where she spent three months collecting data for her study.

“I got homesick and depressed because of being in that environment,” said Goel. “I seriously hope my study sheds light on what the staff and family members go through daily and informs the design of healthcare settings.”

GMZ Graduate Fellow

Goel is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the PDBE Ph.D. program, focusing on healthcare design and research. She currently works as a graduate assistant for CHFDT, where she can create designs rooted in evidence-based research.

As a part of the Fellowship, Goel received $9,000 in funding for transportation to study sites and other research costs.

“As an international student with limited resources, this award enables me to travel to three case study locations for data collection,” she explained.

Once Goel completes her studies, she will attend the Healthcare Design Conference + Expo, hosted by The Center for Health Design. At the conference, she will get the opportunity to present her findings to the conference body.

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