Thursday, June 14, 2007

Green Nursing

Birds do it, bees do it, even nurses do it! Go green that is!

In the April 2007 issue of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) journal there is an article entitled, "Reduce - Recycle - Reuse: Guidelines for Promoting Perioperative Waste Management". The perioperative period refers to any period surrounding a surgical procedure including the pre-operative and post-operative period.

This article, written by Gary Laustsen, APRN, states: "The perioperative environment generates large amounts of waste, which negatively affects local and global ecosystems...To manage this waste, health care facility leaders must focus on identifying correctable issues, work with relevant stakeholders to promote solutions, and adopt systematic procedural changes."

He reminds us that, "Large health care facilities, such as hospitals, historically used incinerators to dispose of medical waste" and cites such pollutants as dioxin and mercury as some of the chemicals released into the air due to such methods of disposal. He cites two organizations that are looking for ways "to reduce the negative effect of health care practices on the environment": Health Care Without Harm and Hospitals for a Healthy Environment.

Due to the nature of health care, many products are single-use only to protect patients from cross contamination. However, some correctable areas can apply to the "business" end of nursing: photocopying and printing and the packaging used for medical supplies. Hospitals never close (theoretically) and so they are big consumers of energy as well.

Laustsen goes on to present a case vignette where a "red bag" (a bag used for hazardous medical waste - similar to the "sharps" container you see in your healthcare providers office, but on a larger scale) is analyzed for the inclusion of non-biohazardous waste. He states, "The results of this investigation demonstrated that there was significant inappropriate disposal of OR wastes into the biohazardous waste receptacle." me... he recognizes that greening is a "small steps" process and goes on to cite specific suggestion for recycling, reducing and reusing in the perioperative setting.

Thank you, Gary Laustsen, for an intriguing and informative article on a topic that many non-health care professionals knew nothing about - including me! Great job!

Tomorrow - my review on Barbara Kingsolver's fabulous new book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle".

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