As the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) was formed in 2008, its founders conceptualized an e-textbook related to the issues of health and environment. On November 11, 2016, the free, open-access textbook Environmental Health in Nursing went live on ANHE’s website. “As front-line health care providers, nurses can make a difference in identifying and responding to environmental health risks and exposures, so this e-text is offered widely to help nurses, nursing students, and nursing faculty be prepared to address those risks and exposures within their practice settings,” explains Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, MPH, MSN, RN, associate professor and director of the College of Nursing’s Center for Global & Public Health. She is an inaugural member of the group, chairperson of the education workgroup, and co-editor for the textbook.
“The drive for a free, open-access e-text was based on recommendations of the 1995 IOM report, Nursing, Health and the Environment: Strengthening the Relationship to Improve the Public's Health, that reported that nurses were not adequately educated and prepared to assess environmental risks and exposures or to make appropriate referrals related to environmental risks,” notes Dr. McDermott-Levy. Progress was slow and ANHE saw the need for education. This ultimately set in motion the ANHE endeavor of gathering e-text authors who are environmental health nursing experts from around the country and represent a variety of practice settings. Dr. McDermott-Levy contributed sections on faith communities, Immigrants and Refugees as a Vulnerable Population, ToxTown as a environmental health learning resource, and a section highlighting her fracking research.
She believes providing nurses with the knowledge they are missing in this area is critical for holistic care of patients and communities. “There are communities and specific populations across the lifespan that are at greater risk of environmental exposures that effect their health,” says Dr. McDermott-Levy, “Flint, Michigan's water crisis is just one example that made the news. But there are other cities and communities at risk of environmental exposures every day.”