Student nurses lead the climate conversation for the profession

A University of Leeds student nurse speaks to the Nursing Times about the importance of sustainable healthcare practice.

Responsible for 4-5% of carbon emissions both in the UK and globally, healthcare bears its own environmental cost. In the UK the NHS’ carbon footprint covers everything from its buildings, waste and power usage to medicine supply chains and patient and staff travel.

Speaking to the Nursing Times, second-year University of Leeds Adult Nursing student Rochelle Tattersall highlights an example from her own practice that served as a wake-up call. 

“Those (dialysis) machines use a lot of water and energy per patient,” she said.

“We were taught about priming the machines to get water through the lines. Doing it on time uses around 500ml but doing it 20 minutes before the procedure is due to start, then it might use up to 4L. That’s 3.5L of water wasted, and that would be done dozens of times a day.”

Rochelle explains that younger nurses are eager to make health, and nursing as a profession, more sustainable: “It’s definitely within the scope of a younger band 5 nurse to suggest improvements to sustainability.”

"Ideas come from fresh faces, and while there is sometimes a feeling of, ‘Well, we’ve always done it’, we were encouraged to question things at my trust and ask if what we do is in line with the current best practice.”

Rochelle adds, “For example, my mother-in-law recently told me she has never had a medication review. That can be quite wasteful. Does she need to be taking all of them? It’s costing her and the NHS money to be taking medication she [potentially] doesn’t need, and the production of medicines is wasteful.”

Read more about the importance of sustabinability at Leeds here