A green view

recycling project

While a senior nursing student evaluates 20 pounds of trash, she imagines wide sweeping impact on healthcare

Marina Gallo couldn’t believe how much medical trash was thrown out at an area health care facility during her first clinical rotation as a sophomore. The Pittsburgh native relayed her shock to her faculty, who happened to be Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, RN, an assistant professor who has taken a lead role on environmental health issues at the state and national levels as well as on Villanova’s campus.

Marina, now a senior nursing student, is driven to create change and have an impact on waste and the environment. Dr. McDermott-Levy encouraged her to apply for the President’s Environmental Sustainability Committee (PESC), a group comprised of faculty, staff, and students who share an interest in the issue. Marina completed the application in which she needed to explain why she was committed to sustainability at Villanova and describe a project that would promote sustainability on campus.  She was selected to serve on the committee and is its first College of Nursing student representative.  

“The way we currently live isn’t sustainable and I feel it’s my responsibility to help make a positive change in any way I can. I’ve always been interested in maintaining and promoting a healthy environment, but the unnecessary wastefulness I’d witnessed in hospitals was the impetus and inspiration for this project,” Marina explains.  

recycling

Through her sustainability initiative and with the advice of Dr. McDermott-Levy, Marina has created a project to reduce waste in the College of Nursing’s Learning Resource Center (LRC). The LRC has 10 labs that simulate hospital rooms and activities. Marina is attempting to implement a waste management program that would be similar to what is occurring in hospitals around the country.  She says, “This should reduce costs to the school as well as increase recycling, environmental awareness, and sensitivity about the issue. That is a long-term goal; during my time at Villanova I just hope to reduce the amount of waste the labs are producing.”

Colleen Meakim, MSN, RN, director of the LRC, embraces the idea of reducing waste in the LRC as well as other areas in the college.  She is an advocate for recycling at home, and says, “I’m happy to see more of it occurring within the university.”

Like any effective nursing intervention, the first step is to assess the problem.  So in November Marina conducted a waste audit of trash generated during a laboratory simulation where 36 nursing students participated in a urinary catheterization simulation lab, practicing important skills on mannequins with real catheterization kits which were then discarded into trash bags for later examination. Marina and Dr. McDermott-Levy separated the trash by type, such as cardboard boxes, paper drapes, tweezers, specimen cups and tubing. Each type of trash was weighed. “We ended up with a total of approximately 20 pounds of trash, but only about 6 pounds of it really should be thrown away. The rest can be recycled or re-used,” Marina offers.

The next step is to perform an experiment to see how to most effectively reduce waste and increase recycling.  Marina also foresees teaching sophomores about recycling in the spring that will hopefully help increase the chances of reaching goals.   

While Marina is starting small with this project, she thinks big. “Reducing waste in Driscoll Hall’s labs and educating nursing students on environmentally friendly practices will positively impact their future behavior in hospitals and they will inspire their co-workers to be more environmentally responsible as well,” she predicts.  Why are nurses so pivotal in this area?  “Nurses comprise a large percentage of health care professionals, so the likelihood of being able to make a positive change is very good,” Marina explains, “For that reason, the education of nursing students regarding more environmentally friendly practices is essential because it could mean the entry of new nurses into the current workforce could promote serious change in a relatively painless manner.”  

 

recyling

"The education of nursing students regarding more environmentally friendly practices is essential because it could mean the entry of new nurses into the current workforce could promote serious change in a relatively painless manner.”  -- senior Marina Gallo