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ehes curriculum

Building an Environmental Health Curriculum

Environmental health topics can be woven into all nursing programs. Several examples are listed here grouped by level of education.

BSN/RN-BSN
Case studies:

  • Environmental health exposures
  • Studies of chemical exposure to nurses in the acute care workplace
  • Exposure of neonates to phthalates used as plasticizers in IV tubings

Guest lectures:

  • Public health department expert to discuss waste management in the community
  • Sustainability expert from local hospital to discuss environmental impacts of healthcare
  • Electronic waste expert to discuss health issues of e-waste

Record interviews with these or other experts so they can be accessed online in the future.

Panel discussions: Invite experts in to have panel discussion about waste, energy, or toxicants and their health impacts.

Community projects: Identify community events for students to participate in. These may include drug take backs, mercury thermometer take backs, public education events.

MN
Change projects for master’s dissertations:

  • Get involved in hospital sustainability projects such as providing education about red bag waste segregation.
  • Develop protocols to promote environmentally safe nursing.
  • Work with public health department to study the link between heart attacks and air pollution spikes.

Evidence-based practice projects:
Students may engage in a variety of projects to review the current literature:

  • Health impacts of pharmaceuticals in ground and surface water
  • Intrauterine exposure to toxic chemicals and correlated miscarriage, birth defect, or childhood health issues
  • Climate change and health
DNP/PhD
Change projects:

  • Get involved in hospital sustainability projects such as providing education about red bag waste segregation.
  • Develop protocols to promote environmentally safe nursing.
  • Work with public health department to study the link between heart attacks and air pollution spikes.

Leadership project: Identify and describe application of ANA Standard of Practice #16, the RN practices in an environmentally safe and healthy manner, to student’s area of focus. For instance, how would the family nurse practitioner practice in an environmentally safe and healthy manner?

Research design and support:
There are many ideas for nursing research in the area of environmental health and sustainability:

  • Cord blood study to examine intrauterine exposures to chemicals
  • Qualitative analysis of nurses’ engagement with environmental health
  • Thyroid disease prevalence and exposure to widely used consumer chemicals
  • Testing of effectiveness of educational methods on environmental health nursing topics
  • Comparison of environmental footprint of several nursing care products
Content Ideas
Many opportunities to include environmental health and sustainability topics exist in nursing curricula. While there may not be room for an additive curriculum, this content can be offered by transforming existing curricula. Several ideas are offered for various focus areas of content:

Medical-surgical

  • Hormone disruption from environmental chemicals
  • Relationship between energy generation and use and cardiopulmonary disease such as asthma and COPD
  • Healthcare-generated waste in hospitals

Mother-baby

  • Environmental footprint of C-section vs vaginal delivery
  • NICU chemicals: The story of DEHP
  • Prenatal chemical exposure and developmental milestones

Psychiatric nursing care

  • Ecopsychology
  • Issues of healing environment regarding depression and anxiety

Community health

  • Pharmaceuticals in ground and surface waters
  • Climate change and health
  • Environmental policies and health