A Europe-wide initiative to provide nurses with education and professional development on sustainability issues has been launched by a team led by Plymouth University.
The NurSusTOOLKIT project is a three-year strategic partnership funded by the European Union, which is intended to share best practice across the continent.
As well as the UK, the collaboration involves universities in Germany, Spain and The Netherlands.
“Nurses can act as powerful agents for change in the use of health resources”
The researchers combine expertise in nursing, sustainability and global health and hope to produce a range of teaching and learning materials that will be freely available through the NurSus website.
Professor Janet Richardson, who is leading the project at Plymouth, said sustainable development was a “concept vital to healthcare”, noting that the sector created at least 5% of the total CO2 emissions in the EU.
But she noted at present there were limited resources available to support the teaching of sustainability issues in European nursing curricula.
She said: “Due to its relatively large carbon dioxide emissions, the use of toxic materials and the production of vast amounts of waste, healthcare is compromising public health and damaging the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
“Improving energy and resource efficiency, procurement policies and waste management are vital for a more sustainable health sector,” she said.
The project team has already reviewed existing research on attempts that have been made to encompass sustainability, as well as holding interviews with leading academics in the field.
“This is a unique opportunity for a European project to pioneer sustainability within the nursing curricula”
They said their next step will be to undertake a more detailed survey of experts to identify the most important sustainability knowledge, skills and competencies that should be included in nurse education.
“Nurse educators are poorly prepared to teach students the connections between resources, climate change, sustainability and health,” said Professor Richardson.
“This is a unique opportunity for a European project to pioneer sustainability within the nursing curricula,” she said.
“Nursing is one of the largest professions in the continent, so nurses can act as powerful agents for change in the use of health resources,” she added.
A major new campaign to boost the influence of nursing staff in the NHS procurement process is due to be launched tomorrow by the Royal College of Nursing and NHS Supply Chain.
The organisers of the Small Changes, Big Difference campaign estimate that streamlining the purchasing of basics like wipes, incontinence products and cannulae could save the equivalent of 1,000 nursing jobs.