NEW YORK NURSE: October 2013
Professor Wade Hill is an RN with a Ph.D. in Public Health. He teaches and researches at the College of Nursing at Montana State University. His specialties include the health effects of climate change and the leading role nurses should play in addressing the climate crisis. He and May Boeve, executive director and co-founder of 350.org, a global organization fighting climate change, will be leading a workshop on climate change, health, and nursing at the NYSNA convention. We spoke recently.
Professor Hill says he first understood the connection between nursing and the environment as a nursing student. As he puts it, “Florence Nightingale was the first environmental nurse.” The connection between nursing and the environment has largely been lost, contends Hill. He’s on a mission to change that: “We need to re-attach ourselves as nurses to the environment.” To that end, along with about 20 other nurses, he co-founded a national organization, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, which is bringing environmental concerns into nursing.
Professor Hill says every nurse should know this about climate change:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a worldwide committee of hundreds of scientists, issued a major report in September on the physical science of climate change. Its conclusion: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.” The reason for these changes? “Human influence.”
“Any nurse who went through Hurricane Sandy should take an immediate interest in climate change. The nurses who cared for patients during and after the storm, those who went up and down the stairs in apartment buildings in the Rockaways and Red Hook helping stranded New Yorkers get care, who went home to devastation in Staten Island, saw all too closely the effects of climate change.”
“We are in a unique position to speak out against it. We can’t ignore this danger to our world.”
– Sean Petty, RN, Jacobi Hospital, NYSNA Director at Large