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What is a climate-friendly hospital?

Hospitals are responding to climate change, but many nurses still don't understand the issue. By Teresa Lewis

In response to Dr Liz Hanna's article Dealing with climate change (Nursing Review, page 16, February), I wholeheartedly agree with the need to respond to our change in climatic activities.

As Dr Hanna points out, since 2009, there have been global experiences of weather extremes.
Unfortunately, the call for mitigation measures has fallen upon deaf ears as target audiences fail to struggle with the whole concept behind global warming. Many scenarios have represented the causation of climate change and global warming which only adds to the confusion. Despite individual understanding, unequivocally our climate is changing.

The World Health Organisation and Healthcare without Harm in 2009 drafted a paper in response to a changing climate and the effects on health. This paper was called Healthy Hospitals, Healthy Planet, Healthy People and its basis was to define a framework for global health organisations to mitigate their greenhouse gases.

Since the 2009 draft, and the Australian government's unconditional pledge to mitigate our carbon footprint, Australian healthcare organisations have begun shifting their 'business as usual' approach to one that is more climate-friendly.

Recently, some hospitals have published anecdotal information about their initiatives to become more climate-friendly. However, nurses working within these hospitals often struggle to understand the reasons and significance of such initiatives.

My research focuses on this very issue. Under the guidance of professors Lorna Moxham and Richard Fleming at the University of Wollongong and Dr Marc Broadbent at CQ University, I am undertaking a PhD examining the role of nurses who work within a climate-friendly hospital.

Using in-depth individual interviews as the method of data collection embedded within a phenomenological methodology, preliminary analysis has revealed a number of concepts but one area of note appears to be that nurses are 'intrinsically' committed to environmental issues, particularly at home.

However, when it comes to the workplace, there appears to be a lack of knowledge about initiatives and why they have been introduced.

There are also nursing implications for working in a climate-friendly hospital that are yet to be fully explored and understood.

Teresa Lewis is a PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong's Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health.

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