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OHNA Core Value – Sustainability

Submitted by Christobal Mozingo Goodwin, OHNA Director-at-Large, who is a Board-Certified Holistic Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator. He is a Master-prepared Registered Nurse with over 30 years of combined healthcare, wellness, and workplace safety experience.

Sustainability is definitively a Holistic Nurse value. It is one that we know is important, but we often witness the exact opposite in our daily care workflows. From single-use items, to reams of paper still being consumed in the “paperless” era, to a pile of plastic packaging that accumulates in our workspaces; healthcare doesn’t feel very sustainable and the Covid endemic has seemed to exacerbate the feeling of unsustainability.

It may come as a surprise that in the past few decades, a nurse-inspired health care sustainability movement has quietly been doing the work to influence the reduction of waste while providing safe, conscientious care. Nurses (and their respective nurse organizations) have made environmental stewardship a priority. One can experience this when interacting with different organizations such as State Boards of Nurses (very few print physical nursing licenses anymore) and at some major nursing conferences, where most content is offered in a paperless format or through a smartphone application.

On a grander scale, nurses have continued to be vocal and advocate for cleaner and greener workplaces. The ongoing vigilance of the nursing value of sustainability has resulted in transforming the way hospital systems design, build, and operate their care facilities. This championing of environmental stewardship by nurses has been driving the “greening of healthcare”.

In her seminal work “Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal The Planet”, Kathy Gerwig, former Environmental Stewardship Officer for Kaiser Health Plan wrote, “The good news is that the health care industry is rapidly waking up to its double-edged impacts on health and the environment and is making significant strides to become more environmentally responsible and sustainable”.

Sustainability demands a redefinition of consumption for nurses personally and professionally. As holistic nurses, we know that an important way to manifest the change we want to see in the world is to model the actions and behaviors to make it happen. I hope this blog post has moved you to think about your efforts to live a more sustainable lifestyle. By making small changes, you can reduce waste, reuse materials appropriately, repurpose goods, and recycle when possible. Most importantly, you can be the change you want to see.