Monday, April 11, 2011

Who says it’s not easy being green? Nurses and Health care leaders Promote Healing, Environmentally Friendly Facilities

An extremely important, and often times overlooked aspect of effective, authentic, and transformational leadership is the practice of Ethics. The word ethics comes from the Greek word ethos, meaning customs, conduct, or character. There are many different approaches and theories concerning ethics that attempt to categorize what is moral and for what reasons. One ethical approach is Altruism, and suggest that actions are moral if their primary purpose is to promote the best interest of others. The  Boulder Community Foothills Hospital is a great illustration of the ethical concept of Altruistic leadership and shows how patients and nurses can benefit from the pursuit of environmentally conscious programs.  

Recently there has been a growing movement to change the face of health care facility design, construction and operation; the emphasis is on making these structures more people & planet-friendly. ANA and nurses are an integral part of that movement. They believe that “what is good for the environment is also good for nurses and patients,” said Nancy Hughes, MS, RN, director of ANA’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Health.  In addition to its own efforts to promote healthy work-places, ANA is a founding partner of Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) and a member of Health Care without Harm (HCWH). Both coalitions advance sound environmental practices that protect the health of people and the environment. “New green building design isn’t just about looking pretty,” Hughes said. “There’s science behind it. Research shows that elements, such as natural lighting and healing gardens, reduce stress in patients, families and staff.

The ANA also acknowledges that certain practices that have been part of the health care industry for a long time, such as the use of mercury containing products and often the production of a vast amount of waste. These practices can negatively affect the environment, and in turn, the greater community. Robin Guenther, a leading architect in the green building movement said, “Hospitals, for the most part, are mission driven. Once administrators and staff make the connection between the health services they provide and the benefits of environmental design, they want to do the right thing."

When Kai Abelkis came on board as the environmental coordinator of Boulder Community Hospital (BCH) in Colorado in 1999, the facility already had programs to reduce its impact on the environment, though they largely focused on waste reduction. With BCH’s ongoing support, Abelkis expanded the facility’s environmental efforts, including implementing water-reduction programs and purchasing environmentally-friendly products, such as those without extraneous packaging. (H2E has recognized the Boulder Health Care Center as an environmental leader.)

As part of its water-conservation plan, the Foothills facility incorporated “xeriscaping” – meaning the surrounding grounds are landscaped with plants native to Colorado and those that require less water. Leaving no stone unturned, water-saving product choices inside the structure include waterless urinals and low-flow faucets in clinical areas. To cut down on transportation-related fuel costs and carbon dioxide emissions, as well as support the local economy, much of the building material originated and was manufactured in the surrounding communities. Additionally, construction waste was reduced by roughly 60 percent. Employees are encouraged to ride their bikes or carpool to work – with accommodations made to support those activities.  The location of the building also was precisely determined to keep its “environmental footprint” small – with attention spent to preserving area wetlands and a native prairie dog population. A vital part of the building design is to keep the impact of building operations on the environment minimal, such as by having a rigorous recycling program and continuing to think forward when it comes to green practices.

Do you think that other organizations will be influenced by the actions of BCH, and be inspired to promote more environmentally conscious building practices?

Are there any other environmental measures that could be taken to ensure the proper building of these hospitals? 

By: Jarett Diederich

1 comment:

  1. It makes sense that hospitals should be trailblazers in green technology, as they have the most direct route at impacting the health and wellness of large amounts of people. Short of legislation in support of green practices in healthcare facilities, however, I don't see a huge shift from the traditional arrangement of healthcare services. Cost of implementation has to be enormous, and there is not enough research to guarantee significant results. There also probably is no real way that private hospitals would get that money back outside of potential government incentives.

    -Jonathan Lucento