Since the start of our profession, nurses have made the connection between a healthy environment and improved health. Having clean air to breathe and clean water to drink are essential for human health and a key component to disease prevention. Thus, as health professionals, nurses have a professional obligation to address environmental factors that influence health. As climate change threatens to impact various aspects of health and well-being, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) is working to build the nursing workforce with climate literate nurses and empower those nurses to take action in their practice settings.
Nurses are key to the climate movement. With our holistic view of caring for people and as trusted messengers of health information, we are uniquely positioned to positively influence the adoption of climate solutions. However, we must ensure that our profession is equipped with the knowledge and tools to address climate change now and in the future, to continue our profession’s legacy of protecting health. ANHE aims to achieve this by preparing the next generation of nurse leaders and through collective nursing leadership.
Preparing the Next Generation of Nurse Leaders
Nursing curriculum, like most other health professions schools, is lacking content on climate change and health. To fill this gap, the ANHE Education Work Group has created recommendations for how to incorporate climate and health content into all levels of nursing education. The recommendations pair climate related content with a specific class or general content area already included in nursing curriculum, with suggested teaching strategies to help make the addition of content seamless. In addition, the recommendations provide support for how content relates to nursing concepts and competencies. It is essential that the next generation of nursing career professionals is not only knowledgeable about this topic area, but is also able to adequately respond to the health impacts of climate change.
Various other educational offerings are accessible on the ANHE website for nursing faculty, novice learners, and students to utilize to learn more about climate change and health. These resources include an award winning, open-access, peer-reviewed e-textbook, Environmental Health in Nursing, and a 2017 report developed by nurses for nurses, Climate Change, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action.
Collective Nursing Leadership
In addition to supporting the nursing workforce through education, ANHE aims to assist in building collective nursing leadership that will expand the ability of nurses to positively influence climate solutions. To do this, ANHE in partnership with Climate for Health, have formed a Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health. The collaborative consists of national nursing organizations that have committed to making climate change a health priority by increasing awareness and engagement among their members. By working within nursing organizations, the collaborative aspires to empower the millions of nurses nationwide to reduce their climate impact, build resiliency in communities and institutions as we prepare for the effects of climate change, and advocate for health protective policy.
Signatories of the collaborative include the: Association of Public Health Nurses, National Association of Hispanic Nurses, Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare, National Student Nurses Association, and Public Health Nursing section of the American Public Health Association. Learn more about the collaborative effort here.
How to Get Involved: What Can Nurses Do?
There are several actions that nurses can take to support climate-friendly environments at work, in communities, and in daily life. Through our new online Climate and Health Toolkit nurses can learn more about the actions they can take in various practice settings, from academic institutions to hospitals to community settings. The toolkit offers best practices with tips and ideas from nurses who have successfully implemented climate change initiatives in their practice settings or communities.
Additionally, please join us at ANHE’s 2nd annual nursing summit prior to Practice GreenHealth’s CleanMed conference in San Diego, CA on May 6th-7th. Leading nurse experts in environmental health will present on the most pressing concerns facing our patients and communities, including climate change. To learn more and to register, visit here.
Cara Cook, MS, RN, AHN-BC is the Climate Change Program Coordinator at the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments.
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