Towards environmentally responsible nursing: a critical interpretive synthesis

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To provide a synthesis of studies on the environmental issues in nursing.


Interest in the environmental issues affecting health sciences has been increasing in recent decades. Health care is one of the largest publicly provided services and it share of the environmental burden is high. Nurses play an important role in environmental health issues as they are the largest group of healthcare staff and are most directly connected to the use of energy and materials. Despite this, previous studies on nurses' roles in environmental issues have been presented in a relatively fragmented way.

Design and data sources

Systematic literature searches of peer-reviewed papers published between 2002–2012 were carried out using the CINAHL, Science Direct and PubMed electronic databases.

Review method

Critical interpretive synthesis was then undertaken to provide a comprehensive overview of the topic.


Eleven studies were included. Based on our synthesis, environmentally responsible nursing can be identified in relation to the: (1) theoretical framework; (2) background arguments; (3) role of responsible stakeholders; and (4) targets of environmental management. A fifth element: (5) tools for practical environmental responsibility, was also presented.


Awareness of environmental issues is starting to encourage nursing services to seek sustainable practices. Nurses themselves are naturally in a key position to promote and develop environmentally responsible nursing. Environmentally responsible nursing helps to promote healthy environmental practices. It also reduces undesirable practices that can burden the environment and have a negative impact on health.

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