By Christie Nairn
Healthcare employees are faced with life or death decisions every single day. The decision to recycle or turn out the lights when leaving a room usually is not top of mind for many of these same people. However, small behavioral choices such as recycling can make a real difference in a hospital’s environmental sustainability practices – which in turn affect the surrounding community’s health.
At HSC Winnipeg, Housekeeping staff are an indispensable component of the sustainability program. The department of 350 staff have the unique advantage of being the only population in the hospital who visit every room on the 32-acre campus every single day. They make a huge difference in the success of the sustainability program at HSC Winnipeg.
In spring of 2015, ten Housekeeping staff volunteered to be part of participatory professional development pilot project focused on environmental sustainability practices in healthcare. Throughout the 8-week trial period (one full day session, three half day sessions), Housekeeping staff explored the meaning of environmental sustainability, how it relates to human health, how it relates to their work at HSC Winnipeg, and what they can do to help improve practices within the hospital. The group decided that educating other housekeepers and staff was the best way to promote, encourage and improve sustainability initiatives on site. At the end of the professional development course participants worked together to create a one-page checklist, which would be included on all cleaning carts for housekeeping staff to view throughout their shift. The checklist covers important points such as turning out the lights when leaving the room, checking the taps to see if water is dripping and even ensuring waste and recycling are thrown in the correct disposal bins.
The staff who participated in the professional development session are proud of the work they conducted during the course. One of the participants even joked, “I used to not know anything about sustainability and now I know too much! I have to share this knowledge with my coworkers.” The group is now able to help to educate their peers about the importance of environmental sustainability and they are seen as champions of sustainability within their department at HSC Winnipeg.
HSC Winnipeg plans to create a condensed version of the course to other departments within the hospital, customized for how sustainability applies to different departments in the hospital.
Christie Nairn is the Environmental Sustainability Coordinator at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg. For more information contact Christie Nairn at firstname.lastname@example.org.