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Nursing News HighlightsNurses Leading Innovation

Course Helps Nurses Lead in Environmental Sustainability

On the cusp of Earth Day 2021, Nurses remain uniquely positioned to identify areas in healthcare delivery that can be improved to lessen healthcare’s impact on the planet. A new, free course from the Johnson & Johnson Institute invites nurses to explore how they can lead solutions for environmental sustainability and stewardship.

If you visit the operating room lounge in Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, you’ll see large, green bins inviting you to compost your food waste. These composting buckets, provided along with educational materials on the impact of composting, were introduced to the lounge by Patricia Stockwell, RN, CNOR, a passionate clinical nurse in the hospital’s operating room who was disheartened by the amount of food waste she was seeing.

“Our lounge sees over one hundred staff members every day, with all of their food waste being destined for the public landfill,” said Patricia. “We recently switched to using paper cups in the lounge, which are compostable, and watching hundreds of these being used daily with no option to compost them was really the catalyst I needed to bring composting to our lounge.”

Composting is a form of waste disposal where organic waste decomposes naturally, producing CO2 instead of methane. Waste decomposition in a landfill often results in methane, which has been shown to trap as high as 84 times as much heat in the atmosphere as CO2 over a 20-year period.[1] Patricia chose an 8-hour window of time in the lounge, collected all the waste and found that 75% of dining and food waste in the OR lounge, or about 3,120 lbs. of compost per year, could be diverted from landfills by providing recycling education and offering an option to compost.[2]

Patricia’s efforts were recently featured in a new Environmental Sustainability & Stewardshipcourse launched recently by the Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies (JJMDC). Together with the Johnson & Johnson Institute, JJMDC is providing “Environmental Sustainability Training for Nurses,” an introductory course aiming to educate nurses about environmental sustainability and stewardship and empower them to take action in their local hospitals. The course, based on insights from ANHE (Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment) and from Practice Greenhealth, explores how nurses can lead in developing pioneering solutions to address healthcare waste and climate change. Nurses can access the training, which takes under an hour to complete, at no cost after registering on the Johnson & Johnson Institute website.

“Because nurses are on the frontlines of healthcare, they see a lot of healthcare waste firsthand day in and day out. Nurses are incredibly dedicated to caring and healing and always prioritize delivering the best care to their patients. Yet, in order to deliver that care, a lot of products and materials are used. This results in a lot of hospital room and OR waste,” said Sarah Chang, Global Director of Environmental Sustainability at Johnson & Johnson. “Nurses can be vital players in developing and introducing initiatives in their hospitals to curb the amount of waste and positively impact both their work and global environments.”

Hospitals are open all day, every day, all year round, and therefore create a significant environmental footprint because of the amount of resources required to care for patients. U.S. hospitals generate more than 4.67 million tons of waste each year[3] and the U.S. healthcare industry alone is responsible for 10% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.[4] The Environmental Sustainability & Stewardship training provides nurses with insights like these, along with key information on the different types of hospital waste, electricity and water consumption, in the hopes that they can create “Green Teams,” or committees of healthcare staff dedicated to pioneering environmental sustainability and stewardship in their hospitals.

“At Johnson & Johnson, we believe that human health and environmental health are inextricably linked. We know that Florence Nightingale’s Environmental Theory defined nursing as ‘the act of utilizing the environment of the patient to assist them in their recovery.’ Therefore, that patient’s environment should be as healthy as possible,” said Sarah. “Nurses can find ways to improve both their patient’s health as well as be stewards of the environment. They are passionate about making the world a healthier place. By helping our hospitals to consider and take action around environmental sustainability, they can have tremendous positive impact on our planet.”

Also featured in the training course are nurses from Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Illinois, who developed a protocol to reduce unnecessary waste and expenses per patient admission by changing how patient rooms were prepared[5], as well as nurses from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who diverted approximately 3,460 lbs. of plastic bags from the landfill and saved their unit over $1,600 by replacing plastic bags with reusable bins.[6] JJMDC hopes that by spotlighting successful nurse-led environmental sustainability initiatives, nurses can be inspired to introduce similar initiatives in their hospitals, making local changes that can ladder up to a large impact.

“Since the inception of our lounge program, composting is also being done in one of our hospital labs and continues to spread to other areas,” said Patricia, now the Chairperson of the OR Green Team at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. “As a nurse, I feel like I am well-positioned to have a receptive audience of nurses and other healthcare workers eager to make positive changes. I lead by example and have hope that others will follow.”

Visit the J&J Institute website to learn more about the Environmental Sustainability & Stewardship training course.

How to access the course on Tailored Learning:

1. Sign in or Register at
2. Navigate to the Tailored Learning Tab
3. Click on the Enrollment Key tile from the Dashboard
4. Enter the Enrollment Key ENVSUSTJNJ in the pop-up window
5. Click the “Enroll” button
6. A confirmation message will display once the enrollment key has been accepted.
7. Click "My Learning" and navigate to CE Nurse Education and the Sustainability folder to launch the Environmental Sustainability & Stewardship | CE Accredited course.

For helpful links and videos to assist with registration, profile and password management, tailored learning, maximizing your experience and more, visit the help page here.


(Pictured above is Patricia Stockwell, RN, CNOR, and an example of her composting initiative at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Content courtesy of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.)

[1] Rosen, J. (2019, May 20). Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Could turning it into CO2 fight climate change? Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from
[2] Content courtesy of Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
[3] Practice Greenhealth. 2016 Sustainability Benchmark Report. Reston: Practice Greenhealth; 2016:19
[4] Eckelman MJ, Sherman J (2016) Environmental Impacts of the U.S. Health Care System and Effects on Public Health. PLoS ONE 11 (6): e0157014. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0157014
[5]Content courtesy of Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Illinois.
[6] Content courtesy of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.

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