Caring For Humans, Caring For the Planet

New USF documentary urges nurses to take action on climate change

By ARVIN TEMKAR, USF NEWS Posted Fri, 11/17/2017 - 13:49

What does climate change have to do with nursing?

A lot, according to USF public health Professor Barbara Sattler. For example, fossil fuels that contribute to planetary warming also increase asthma rates. And sweltering summers can lead to illness or death for people who can’t escape the heat.

That’s why Sattler is calling on nurses to take action in her new documentary, Climate Change and Nursing. Sattler produced the documentary in partnership with education technology alumna Michelle Ruiz MA ’16 and with support from a USF Jesuit Foundation Grant.   

“Nurses have a huge role to play in Earth care and human care,” Sattler says in the documentary, which was screened in November at the American Public Health Association’s Global Public Health Film Festival in Atlanta. “We recognize that these two things are inextricably bound.” 

Starting in hospitals and clinics

“The film is meant to inspire nurses to take action in their own organizations,” says Ruiz, who was hired by Sattler when she was a student to edit the film, shoot some of the footage, and record and edit the audio.

Nurses can become leaders by promoting carpooling in the workplace, petitioning for more local and seasonal foods in hospital cafeterias, and creating “green teams” to make sure that hospital waste that can be recycled or composted isn’t tossed in the trash.

Ruiz put her education into action for the project, drawing on what she’d learned in classes like Visual Communication for Educators when editing the film and building the website. 

For the film’s website, Ruiz also created a short public health curriculum that asks viewers to reflect on questions like: “Are you engaged in disaster preparedness for your community?” and “Do you have a Green Team in your workplace?” The site includes resources for further education, including videos that outline the science of climate change and the latest reports from government agencies.

Consequences of climate change

Working on the project was an eye-opener about the consequences of climate change, says Ruiz, who now designs online courses at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. She’s struck by the intensity of the hurricanes and wildfires that have recently been in the news. 

“What we’re talking about is something that’s happening, and that we’re seeing,” she says. “But — like nurses — I can also take action in my everyday life toward mitigating the effects of climate change.” 

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