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Sustainable Health Care Environments

April 8, 2013

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Laura Anderko

Laura Anderko

In our April issue, we give a nod to Earth Day (April 22) and its focus on the environment. The article, “Greening the ‘Proclamation for Change': Healing Through Sustainable Health Care Environments” (free until May 8), by Laura Anderko and colleagues Stephanie Chalupka, Whitney Austin Gray, and Karen Kesten, highlights how hospitals can incorporate design elements and practices not only to reduce energy consumption and garbage, but to provide a healing environment for patients and staff. There is ample evidence in support of the use of natural light, noise-reducing materials for floors and walls, and other design elements in improving rest and healing. And the evidence also shows the benefit to staff AJN0413.Cover.2nd.inddin terms of reducing stress, fatigue, and errors.

Denise Choiniere

Denise Choiniere

Anderko put me in touch with Denise Choiniere, MS, RN, a former critical care nurse who is now director of sustainability, materials management, and in-house construction at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. So how does one go from being a bedside nurse to overseeing construction and environmental efforts? Choiniere says she had “an ‘aha’ moment” when she realized that the chemicals being used to clean hospitals could make people ill. Listen to my podcast with Anderko and Choiniere to learn more about how nurses can help their facilities go green.

As the authors point out,

In the past three decades, researchers have learned a great deal about environmental effects on health, including the ways in which the design and operation of health care facilities can negatively affect the health of patients and employees, communities, and the environment at large. From health care–associated infections and medical errors to pollution caused by the incineration of hospital waste, health care institutions have much to rectify before they can become truly healing environments.

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