Villanova, PA, October 18, 2010 — On a given day, nurses talk with patients about their illnesses and talk with team members about patient outcomes. Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, RN and colleague Carol Fazzini, RN, C have a lot of nurses also talking trash—waste generated by providing patient care, that is. According to Practice Green Health, as much as 85% of hospital waste is non-hazardous solid waste such as paper, cardboard and food. This waste can be recycled or composted thus reducing the waste stream and hauling costs.
Dr. McDermott-Levy, assistant professor at Villanova University College of Nursing, is a fervent advocate for a clean environment, as well as minimizing environmental health risks and the impact of healthcare on the environment. She is a community member of Main Line Health's Healthy Work and Environment Council, and with Fazzini, a staff nurse on a telemetry unit at Bryn Mawr Hospital and co-chair of the Healthy Work and Environment Council, developed a program to address the concern of nurses in the health system.
Dr. McDermott-Levy collaborated with Fazzini to write a grant for Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), an international coalition of hospitals and health care systems, medical professionals and others with similar interests that works to implement ecologically sound and healthy alternatives to health care practices that pollute the environment and contribute to disease. This same group identified her as a Nurse Luminary in 2009 for her environmental work. With the funds from HCWH which supported consultation from Women's Environmental Health Network (WHEN), she and Fazzini created "Let's Talk Trash."
The "Let's Talk Trash" program teaches fellow nurses about the environmental impact of waste on healthcare systems and communities and how to safely reduce the amount of waste generated at the point of care. It was piloted at Bryn Mawr Hospital through four classes to cover various nursing shifts. Trash hauls are now being measured to see if there is a positive impact after the educational program. Claire A. Baldwin, MSN, RN, vice president of Patient Services at Bryn Mawr Hospital, is a proponent of the endeavor. Dr. McDermott-Levy explains, "She has been supportive of this program from the start and is working with a group from the hospital to expand Green Initiatives more widely."
Developing this partnership and implementing such a program in a large health care system has been satisfying for those involved. Dr. McDermott-Levy and Fazzini shared the process through an article published in Nursing Administration Quarterly. [McDermott-Levy, R., & Fazzini, C. (2010). Identifying the Key Personnel in a Nurse-Initiated Hospital Waste Reduction Program. Nursing Administration Quarterly, 34 (4), 306–310.] "It has been rewarding to facilitate green practices with the hospital that serves my own family and community and one where I practiced as a young nurse," notes Dr. McDermott-Levy, adding "The practice-academic partnership has enriched my teaching."