Nurse Leaders Key to Hospital Sustainability Efforts

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media , April 10, 2012

Brown says that switching to more environmentally friendly cleaning products is one way to help both the earth and employee health. She adds that nurses are a critical link in the chain of communication between staff and patients.

Nurse leaders can educate nurses—who can in turn educate patients—that the floors might not look as shiny because they're not being treated with harsh chemicals anymore. Or if people don't smell disinfectant, it's not because the hospital isn't clean; it's because the hospital is using fragrance-free cleaners.

"They not only have to implement the program," Brown says. "But [there's] also an educational component."

Educated nurses can also be part of integrated design teams when building or rebuilding a hospital. For example, a sustainability-minded nurse can advocate for using safer building materials and avoiding formaldehyde in furniture.

"A lot of these products actually give off chemicals right into the breathing space," Brown says. Nurses who are involved with hospital design can also have input on the practicality of green initiatives—for example, making sure that the locations of recycling bins make sense for nurse workflow.

Brown says hospitals often find success when folding efforts initiatives into other initiatives, such as LEAN programs and improving employee engagement. And implementing these programs will help with more than just worker and environmental health. It's also good for morale.

"Hospitals that are engaged around sustainability find that their initiatives are a worker engagement success," Brown says. "Workers want this; they expect this; they do this at home."

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is a managing editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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