Genevieve Zekra, BSN, RNC-OB, is Going Green in a Leesburg, Virginia, community hospital, and saving her labor and delivery unit thousands of dollars per year through a common-sense look at nursing workflow and enlisting the help of her patients and their families. The thirteen year veteran of nursing believes that making things easier for both staff and hospital visitors to recycle and to place items in the correct trash containers will reap big benefits. So far her numbers prove her theory.
Genevieve noticed that every room in her hospital’s labor and delivery area, including bathrooms, had large regulated medical waste (RMW) receptacles lined with red bags. She observed that both staff and families were using those large, prominent cans for disposal of everything from supply packaging to pizza boxes, items clearly not regulated medical waste. This misuse of RMW cans was costly in financial terms to her institution, but also to the environment, since many of the items placed into RMW could actually be recycled. This sparked a comprehensive overhaul of her unit’s waste disposal flow. Supported by management, and in conjunction with environmental services, maintenance and other nurses, Genevieve developed a simple yet highly effective plan to reduce misuse of RMW, increase recycling and reduce trash produced by her unit in general.
First, she collected, weighed and measured how much trash, recycling and medical waste was produced on average per delivery, obtaining baseline data. She then audited her unit’s use of each kind of disposal in the current room configuration. Genevieve quickly saw where the opportunities were to improve the workflow. She initiated simple but effective changes in the types of cans and where they were placed. Large trash cans replaced the large RMW containers in the visitor corner of the rooms. In the bathrooms, the RMW containers were removed, and a roll of red bags was added to the sleeve on the wall for easy access when needed. Cans were added at the nurses’ station, in reach of busy nurses charting and accessing the computer. These changes were calculated to save her unit literally thousands of dollars in RMW per year, and increase use of recycling.
Education of staff and visitors about proper disposal is ongoing. Genevieve takes common items nurses use every day and demonstrates what is recyclable and what is not when she visits other units to talk about her project. She has her eye on spreading the word about recycling and reducing RMW to nurses throughout her hospital, as well as in other hospitals around the system. She summarizes about going green, “You can’t do it alone. You need everyone to do their share. You need to be patient and have lots of perseverance.” Genevieve’s hard work proves it is worth it!