Date of Submission
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
Dr. Francine Serafin-Dickson
Dr. Barbara Sattler
The environments we inhabit, whether homes, schools, workplaces, or the communities that envelop them, are replete with ubiquitous health risks that we routinely ignore to avoid analysis paralysis from worries. Environmental risks are hidden in food, drink, household and personal care products, furniture, and building materials; chemical hazards and physical residues of modern living contaminate air, water, and soil. Occupational hazards are prevalent in workplaces as diverse as agriculture, highways, and hospitals. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022) found that out of 2,310 urine samples taken from a group of Americans from the United States population, more than 80% contained detectable levels of glyphosate, the active ingredient in herbicides sold around the world. Almost one-third of participants with detectable glyphosate levels were children aged six to 18. Among children screened for lead in 2019, five years after the onset of the 2014 Flint, Michigan water crisis, one in four - nearly seven times the national average and in Flint before the crisis - received a clinical diagnosis of elevated lead in blood levels. Those children were significantly more likely to experience issues such as learning delays, hyperactivity, emotional agitation, or skin rashes (Ezell et al., 2022). Nearly 13 million deaths are caused worldwide by the prevalence of environmental risk and occupational hazard exposure (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2021). "You can't have healthy people on a sick planet," write R. Guenther and G. Vittori (2015, p. xiii), architects of sustainable healthcare design and advocates for the "healing architecture" of hospitals.
Healthcare professionals who work in those facilities and treat patients within and beyond those walls must take action. The nursing workforce is strong in number - the largest of any healthcare profession (Schenk, 2015) - and could lead to mitigating environmental and occupational hazards with sufficient awareness, knowledge, and steadfast advocacy for effective practice. As they join teams of frontline caregivers, accomplished student nurses will have the opportunity to strengthen the healthcare workforce through advocacy and leadership in expanding patient care above its current standard parameters. Therefore, the need for environmental and occupational health education in undergraduate nursing programs is clear. If not provided, the nursing profession will have missed a critical opportunity in clinical, public, and community health nursing.
Mercado, Dorinda A., "Environmental and Occupational Health Risks: Educating Undergraduate Student Nurses For Best Practice" (2022). DNP Qualifying Manuscripts. 71.