NEW YORK NURSE: February 2008
Ask the experts
Environmental advocacy for RNs
Q.: As a New Year’s resolution I decided to learn more about the effects of the environment on my patients’ health. Where can I get this information and how can I help make changes?
A.: Environmental awareness is a huge and timely topic and there are many opportunities for nurses to get involved. Research has proven that health and the environment are integrally linked; this evidence implies that nurses have the right and responsibility to pursue changes and to integrate this knowledge into our practices.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has been examining the effects of man-made climate change on the earth for approximately 19 years, recently changed the estimated time frame for a marked effect of global warming to 2030. This information, as well as other indicators, has increased the urgency for changes to policy and principles. Here are just a few resources for information and involvement.
- In 2007, the American Nurses Association (ANA) released the Principles of Environmental Health for Nursing Practice with Implementation Strategies. The principles focus on nursing’s crucial role in understanding the relationship between health and the environment. Nurses are charged with incorporating these changes into care that is “environmentally safe and healthy,” utilizing products and practices that do not harm human health or the environment.
- Making any changes in our practice and our environment begins with the individual nurses who decide to take on an issue. As the single largest workforce in the United States, nurses have the potential to make a major impact on protecting the public’s health. For a copy of the ANA principles go to nursingworld.org/books.
- Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) is a coalition of groups that believe health care providers have a responsibility to eliminate practices that harm people and the environment. The partnership sees nurses as activists at the front line of environmental change. The HCWH Nurses Workgroup was established to provide support and networking opportunities for RNs who have dedicated themselves to implementing environmentally sound practices in their workplaces. You can download a free welcome kit with more information from www.noharm.org/us/nurses.
- A NYSNA task force called RN-HEAT (Healthy Environment Advocacy Task Force) offers nurses the opportunity to learn more about environmental impacts on themselves and their patients. The task force is always seeking new members. For more information, contact Tom Lowe, NYSNA’s occupational health and safety representative, at 212.785.0157.
This is a sample of the questions NYSNA’s experts answer each day. The advice given is specific for the situation described and may not be applicable generally. If you have questions about your own work setting, it is recommended that you contact your NYSNA Nursing Representative or the Education, Practice, and Research Program, 11 Cornell Road, Latham, New York 12110-1499 or call 800.724.NYRN, ext. 282.