Rush University College of Nursing Joins Nurses Climate Challenge

Students and faculty commit to taking action as part of a national campaign bringing awareness to environmental changes as a public health issue

University April 21, 2021
Nurses Climate Challenge

Last quarter, Rush University’s College of Nursing made a commitment to practicing and educating in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way by partnering with the Nurses Climate Challenge.

The Nurses Climate Challenge is the first national campaign to leverage the uniquely important voices of nurses within the health care sector to bring awareness to environmental changes as a public health issue. The campaign is a collaboration between Health Care Without Harm and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, two organizations focused on increasing knowledge about the intersection of health and environments.

By taking part in the Nurses Climate Challenge, Rush University students and faculty hope to simultaneously promote the overall wellness of populations and healthy environments.

Heide Cygan, DNP, RN, an associate professor at the College of Nursing, learned about the initiative last summer after a conversation with Monique Reed, PhD, MS, RN, the assistant dean for generalist education. Reed suggested that the project might align with the content outlined in College’s public health nursing course, which was undergoing revision for the fall term. As a part of this revision, Rush University’s sustainability manager, Ian Hughes, was invited to provide a guest lecture for the course. Student enthusiasm about this content, further encouraged Cygan to pursue a College level commitment to environmentally sustainable efforts through joining the Nurse’s Climate Change.

Cygan predicts that the College’s commitment to the Nurses Climate Challenge will enable nurses to better serve their patients in the future.

“I hope to provide our students with evidence-based information that will allow them to better understand the impact climate change has on us and the communities we serve, as well as the impact our nursing practice has on climate change,” she said. “We want to empower them to be leaders in this area while also providing them with tangible skills that they can use to empower communities to take action.”

The College of Nursing has used materials provided by the Nurses Climate Challenge to continually improve and revise a module dedicated to environmental health and sustainability in its public health nursing course.

“We hope to build upon this module to provide our students will the knowledge and tools they need to take action – action in their daily lives, and in their nursing practice.”

Rush University’s partnership with the Nurses Climate Challenge is strongly supported by Christine Kennedy, PhD, RN, FAAN, the dean of the College of Nursing and it aligns with one of her key Initiatives to promote education, research and practice for the health of urban city populations by advancing climate change as a human health issue. “There is significant science behind how climate change effects population health, especially in my specialty – pediatrics.” Kennedy said. “This partnership allows us to dedicate more time to addressing, for example, the issue of heat islands in cities and health equity as a tie-in, shifting the stakes from abstract to personal health issues for our children and elders. These are critical to health policy and the current and future health of our communities.”

The College of Nursing’s commitment to the Nurses Climate Challenge sends a clear message about students and faculty roles as health professionals in addressing climate change as a public health issue.

“By joining this challenge, we acknowledge this as a priority in nursing,” Cygan said. “We acknowledge our commitment to ensuring our Rush nursing students see climate change as a public health issue and have the knowledge and skills they need to make a difference for future generations.”

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