1. Redulla, Rhoda DNP, RN, NPD-BC, FAAN

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Within the past month, several events occurred that reinforced my concern about climate change. Right in New Jersey where I live, we are commemorating the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ida. It was the second most damaging hurricane to hit the state of Louisiana and caused a tornado outbreak, leading to catastrophic flooding in the Northeast. In one of our recent SGNA committee meetings, one of our members shared about the wildfires near her city in California. In July, my hometown in the Philippines was hit by a massive earthquake, affecting the entire province. The aftershocks continued up to a week after the initial quake. This was a first for the region.

Rhoda Redulla, DNP, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowRhoda Redulla, DNP, RN, NPD-BC, FAAN

As nurses, we play an important role in bringing awareness to our institutions and educating our patients on climate change and its effect to human health. The influence of climate change could result in conditions such as air pollution, temperature extremes, floods, higher pollen concentrations, and food and waterborne diarrheal diseases. Climate change can threaten food production and certain aspects of food quality, leading to health consequences ranging from micronutrient malnutrition to obesity.


Earlier this year, the representatives of the American Nurses Association (ANA, 2022) membership assembly proposed that ANA should take a strong leadership position in addressing the impacts of climate change on human and population health. ANA Assembly representatives approved the recommendation for ANA individual member divisions to include climate crisis and its consequential impact on human and population health as an essential component of their policy platform. The ANA Innovation Advisory Committee also includes Planetary Health as a key area of focus.


Many other organizations and movements have evolved calling for nurses to be actively involved in addressing climate change. Nurses Climate Challenge is an organization with the primary goal of mobilizing nurses across the country to educate a total of 50,000 nurses about the impacts of climate change on human health. Another goal is to build a network of informed and more engaged health professionals in care settings. Nursing Now Challenge (NNC, 2022) is an organization championing leadership development opportunity for 100,000 nurses and midwives in more than 150 countries. One of NNC's key activities is the Global Solutions Initiative, an opportunity for nurses and midwives around the world to connect, share experience, and develop innovative solutions to ongoing global health challenges. In August 2022, the theme was on addressing the climate crisis. Nurses from member organizations were invited to participate in a challenge to develop an innovative approach in addressing climate change.


As nurses, we are poised to impact the future of climate change. Efforts geared toward promoting sustainability support the work on climate change. Hospitals produce more than 5 million tons of waste each year, equivalent to 29 pounds of waste per bed per day. According to Practice Greenhealth, a leading sustainable healthcare organization, approximately 25% of the waste generated by a hospital is plastic (Gibbens, 2019). Look around your immediate work area; how much of your tools and supplies are single-use plastic? You can see basins, pitchers, and trays to name a few. Although we recognize that single-use plastics support patient and staff safety, we also need to be aware of the health hazards associated with their use. Nurses are called to help champion education on sustainability, such as emerging alternatives to reduce medical waste.


Some hospitals are experimenting with replacing blue wrap (a commonly used polypropylene sheeting) with reusable sterilization containers that practitioners can clean, just like the instruments they contain. In the United Kingdom, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN, 2022) spearheads Glove Awareness Week annually. The objective is to teach nurses and other healthcare professionals to be "glove aware" by reducing unnecessary glove use. In a publication, the RCN stated, "When used correctly, medical gloves are a vital part of personal protective equipment (PPE). But there are many occasions when gloves are not needed and hand hygiene is completely effective in protecting you and your patients." Gloves are one of the most common single-use plastics and purchased in the highest quantities in many hospitals.


The work on climate change is enormous. Within our gastroenterology nursing specialty, we can make a difference by getting involved in advocacy work and education within our practice areas. Or start something simple like a glove awareness campaign. The endoscopy setting and other procedural areas are heavy users of gloves. This campaign could make an incredible impact on reducing waste at your hospital. Whether it is reducing healthcare's carbon footprint or mobilizing healthcare's leadership to promote environmental sustainability, nurses can play a pivotal role in climate change. The nursing profession is the largest user of equipment and products for delivering care. We can make a difference.




American Nurses Association. (2022, June). ANA acts on climate change and key nursing issues. Retrieved from[Context Link]


Gibbens S. (2019). Can medical care exist without plastic? National Geographic. Retrieved from[Context Link]


Nursing Now Challenge. (2022). WISH sponsors Nursing Now Challenge Global Solutions Initiatives on climate change and digital health. Retrieved from[Context Link]


Royal College of Nursing. (2022, February). Are you glove aware? Retrieved from[Context Link]