Brighton student nurses leading global push for more sustainable healthcare
University of Brighton has joined institutions worldwide to put sustainability and the impact of climate change at the heart of nurse training and practice.
Nursing (Child) BSc (Hons) student Leonie Harrison is one of the students driving the University’s involvement in a global initiative called the Planetary Health Report Card (PHRC), supported by teaching staff from the university’s Sustainability Special Interest Group.
Earlier this year, the NHS became the world’s first public healthcare system to embed Net Zero commitments into legislation. As part of how University of Brighton is helping support this, Leonie and Senior Lecturer in Child Health Nursing Alison Taylor have given a presentation about the university’s work to adapt nurse training and practice to climate change impacts at NET2022, a leading international conference for networking in healthcare education taking place in Lancaster.
Leonie said: “Student nurses are the future healthcare workforce, and to support the NHS in achieving its net-zero goal we must gain an understanding of sustainable practice and the implications our clinical activities have on the environment. As frontline workers, we are already witnessing the impact pollution and climate change has on human health.
“At the University of Brighton, students are being encouraged to consider sustainable use of resources during clinical skills simulations. The skills acquired from these learning experiences can be carried into future careers, giving confidence to provide leadership and advocacy for sustainable change which will benefit the health of our patients.”
Nursing (Adult) BSc (Hons) student Emily Green, meanwhile, has taken part in audits on the nursing clinical skills sessions offered at the University, identifying areas of sustainability improvement – such as minimising waste by piloting the use of re-usable sharps bins.
Emily said: “Looking at sustainability within clinical skills at Brighton allowed nursing students to reflect on their own practice and how changes can be made for the future. Auditing the waste produced at University of Brighton enabled us to highlight changes that could be made – and make students and lecturers aware of the impact they have on the carbon footprint.”
Dr Heather Baid, Principal Lecturer in the School of Sport and Health Sciences said: “The relationship between planetary health and human health is well addressed in our BSc undergraduate nursing programme. As future frontline workers, nurses will experience the dire consequences of climate change first hand, and must be equipped to not only care for afflicted patients, but to encourage preventative change. We are already seeing the impacts on human health that pollution and extreme weather can bring, and the nursing curriculum must reflect these realities.”
The new Nursing Planetary Health Report Card pilot was developed by a team of international nursing students and faculty, with University of Brighton’s School of Sport and Health Sciences one of only four Schools in the world called on to develop and pilot a project that expands on the original PHRC project which focused solely on medical students.
The Report Card sees students evaluating how well their own nursing course addresses planetary health metrics across five categories: curriculum, research, community outreach, student-led initiatives and campus sustainability – with University of Brighton Nursing scoring an impressive A grade overall.
As well as University of Brighton, there was input from nursing students at University of Virginia and University of Minnesota in the US, University of Esslingen (Germany), as well as Lancaster University.
Nursing and midwifery courses at University of Brighton are ranked joint 1st in the UK for career and graduate prospects by the Guardian University Guide 2022 and Complete University Guide 2022. The University’s involvement in the PHRC project ties into its commitment to address Global Challenges across all its academic Schools – a promise enshrined in its Practical Wisdom: Brighton 2025 strategy.