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Nurse Leaders Key to Hospital Sustainability Efforts

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

"Sometimes going green can be very overwhelming," Brown tells HealthLeaders. "With this initiative, we really tried to hone in on what's achievable for people…it's not about pushing the envelope on sustainability. Hospitals can have success."

Once a hospital commits to improving its sustainability—whether it's with help from HHI or not—Brown says nurses have a critical role to play in helping the organization move forward with its plans. She says it starts with chief nursing officers, who should educate their staff about changes within the organization and what it will mean for nurses and patients.

"The more that a nurse leader is onboard with sustainability, the more they're able to use it as a vehicle for not only creating a healthier environment for the patients, but also for the nurses," Brown says. She says when nurses work in a healthy environment they're better able to help their patients.

Chemicals that are bad for the planet are often responsible for making people feel sick, too, especially nurses, who sometime don't realize that the nausea, skin rashes, headaches, and other maladies that they may experience might be related to the poisonous chemicals that they're exposed to in an effort to make the hospital "clean."

For example, Brown points to occupational asthma. Research shows that nurses are at a higher risk for it than the rest of the population, thanks to the caustic disinfectants, latex, and other irritants that are part of their everyday working lives.

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