Sustainability in nursing

A strategic partnership funded by the European Union to provide education and professional development on sustainability issues in nursing has been launched by a project team led by Plymouth University.

The NurSusTOOLKIT project is a three-year collaboration with funding of 448,000 Euros involving universities in Esslingen (Germany), Jaen (Spain) and Maastricht (the Netherlands) and which is looking to share best practice across the continent. This team brings together expertise in nursing, sustainability and global health and will produce a range of teaching and learning materials that will be freely available through the website.

Janet Richardson, Professor of Health Service Research, and project lead at Plymouth, said that limited resources were currently available to support the teaching of sustainability issues in European nursing curricula. She said:

“Sustainable development is a concept vital to healthcare. Due to its relatively large carbon dioxide emissions, the use of toxic materials and the production of vast amounts of waste, healthcare is compromising public health and damaging the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In the European Union, the health sector creates at least 5 per cent of total CO2 emission, so improving energy and resource efficiency, procurement policies and waste management are vital for a more sustainable health sector.”

The content of the teaching and learning materials will be developed through a consensus approach, drawing on expertise from across Europe.

The project team has already conducted a series of rapid reviews into published reports and papers, as well as curricula where attempts have been made to encompass sustainability, and held interviews with leading academics in the field. Their next steps will be to undertake a more detailed survey of experts in Europe to identify the most important sustainability knowledge, skills and competencies that should be included in a nurse’s education.

“Nurse educators are poorly prepared to teach students the connections between resources, climate change, sustainability and health,” 

Professor Richardson added. 

“There is no European framework for sustainability literacy and competency and no guidelines for sustainability pedagogies. So, this is a unique opportunity for a European project to pioneer sustainability within the nursing curricula. Nursing is one of the largest professions in the continent, so nurses can act as powerful agents for change in the use of health resources.”