Study reveals climate change and resource scarcity can impact nurses all over the world

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Nurses will need to be supported in learning about waste management to reduce environmental impacts.

Climate change is “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century” says the World Health Organisation. An estimate of 7 million lives is claimed prematurely each year because of air pollution, primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels. Combatting COVID-19 is of the utmost urgency, however climate priorities must guide post- pandemic recovery strategies.

Healthcare significantly contributes to climate change and can play a vital role in supporting change. If the world's health-care system were a country, it would be the planet's fifth-largest carbon emitter. 5.4 per cent of the UK carbon emissions, which is equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions form 11 coal fired power plants comes from the NHS. Several healthcare practices produce waste by products that are hazardous to the environment.

Therefore, nursing and midwifery education should include a focus on how natural resources should be used and disposed in clinical practice, as well as the impact sustainable measures have on the environment.  Opportunities must be identified to integrate wider topics on the importance of sustainability and vital issues into the nursing curriculum. This can drive change and create awareness on the link between sustainability issues being healthcare issues as well, making them relevant for clinical practice.

Developing awareness of sustainability in nursing and midwifery using a scenario-based approach, showcased evidence from a pre and post educational intervention study.

Aimed to assess the impact of a sustainability-focused, scenario-based learning educational intervention on student nurses and midwives' attitudes and knowledge, the educational intervention used in this pre-test/post-test intervention study was scenario-based learning. The outcome measure was the Sustainability Attitudes in Nursing Survey (SANS 2). In a UK University School of Nursing and Midwifery, 676 second-year undergraduate nursing and midwifery students participated in a clinical skills workshop. The SANS survey was completed on a 7-point scale before and after the teaching session, and standard non-parametric analysis was used to compare before and post intervention scores.

Attitudes regarding climate change and sustainability, as well as the inclusion of these subjects in nursing curricula, shifted. Following the workshop, participants displayed an improved understanding of natural resource consumption and waste disposal costs. Participants also said that the sessions were realistic, and that their levels of agreement with comments promoting the session's worth and the participatory form of delivery were greater afterward.

Nursing and midwifery students can be instrumental in being catalysts for environmental change by widening their knowledge on sustainability. Using this method in the context of clinical skills creates an engaging and interesting approach that is both educational and clinically applicable.

Sustainable development, according to the International Council of Nursing, is concerned with providing a framework in which groups, communities, and individuals have access to resources and opportunities, as well as the ability to exercise their rights to build infrastructures that promote healthy communities.

Through this, sustainable practices can provide ways for communities to thrive and met expectations in the present day without comprising the future generations. Therefore, nurses can promote and advocate for policies in awareness of global warming and as well as their health consequences.

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