Vanessa has been a RN for five years and is currently working in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at the Montreal Children’s Hospital in Quebec. She recently completed a master’s degree in Nursing Service Administration from McGill University.
While working on the unit, Vanessa’s observations of waste consumption and its environmental implications served as a catalyst for her path to environmental sustainability engagement in healthcare. Vanessa observed that as frontline nurses, “we have a mentality of abundance”, as materials for patient care are readily available and easily accessible. As a result, this mentality enables the production of excess clinical waste on the ward.
With a dynamic team and supportive management, Vanessa took this opportunity to navigate potential ways to reduce waste consumption and production on the unit. She started researching on strategies to mitigate waste production, which led to the idea of forming a Green Team on her unit.
Vanessa formed a Green Team in 2019 using an interdisciplinary approach to reduce clinical waste and promote sustainable practice. The team included nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, physicians, personal care attendants (PCA), and unit clerks. A team-based approach gave opportunity for members to identify capacities to limit waste consumption within their respective roles.
The next steps involved creating a team mission, conducting a needs assessment, and developing a list of goals and actionable items. For example, an issue identified was the layout of the unit and the accessibility of waste bins. Vanessa highlighted that if we want frontline staff to be more environmentally conscious, it is important to ensure that proper waste segregation bins are readily available throughout the unit rather than just one centralized area. This facilitates proper waste segregation.
Some of the sustainable initiatives that were successfully implemented by the Green Team on the unit include:
- Recycling plastic packaging from patient medications in the medication room, the PCA would transfer the full bag to the blue bins for recycling – located a short distance from the unit.
- Installation of grey bins for recycling thick and thin cardboard boxes in the soiled utility room. At every recycling bin checkpoint, there are posters prompting staff on appropriate waste disposal.
Green Initiatives from the Green Team at the Montreal Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Unit (PICU) and Advanced Care Unit (ACU):