Community members: 11
Desired Environmental Health Competencies for Registered Nurses
Robyn Gilden, PhD, RN
University of Maryland, School of Nursing
The Alliance for Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) met in June 2009 to develop competencies for environmental health nursing for both the nurse at the basic level of education and for the nurse with advanced knowledge for practice. These competencies would serve as a guide for the development of ANHE educational tools such as the electronic textbook and curriculum recommendations for all levels of nursing education. During the fall of 2009, ANHE members collaborated with the American Nurses Association in ANA's development of Standard 16 Environmental Health (below).
The registered nurse:
Applies knowledge of basic EH concepts to nursing assessment, prevention, and control strategies.
Incorporates environmental risk factors across the lifespan when assessing individuals, families, and/or communities.
Utilizes scientific evidence and is guided by the precautionary principle.
Reduces EH risks in the health care setting (chemical, biological, and radiological).
Participates in creating environments that promote health and healing which include attention to sound/noise, light, and use of/access to nature.
Collaborates with others to create and implement strategies that promote healthy environments.
Promotes a healthy environment that respects the diverse values, beliefs, cultures, & circumstances of patients, their families, and communities.
Advocates for healthy environments that include issues associated with air, water, soil, food/agriculture, the built environment and chemicals/products.
Promotes one’s right to know about potentially harmful products, chemicals, pollutants and hazards to which people may be exposed.
Communicates EH risks and exposure reduction strategies with patients, families and /or communities.
Advocates for environmental justice, including a commitment to the health of vulnerable populations and the elimination of health disparities (AACN 2008, Baccalaureate Competencies, pg 25, line 12).
Additional Competencies for the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse:
Evaluates outcomes related to the implementation of EH strategies.
Explains the impact of social, political, and economic influences upon the environment & human health exposures.
Analyses information on human exposure to environmental hazards & their implications for practice, such as biomonitoring and geographic information systems (GIS).
Critically evaluates the manner in which EH issues are presented by the popular media.
Supports nurses in advocating for and implementing environmental principles in nursing practice.
Establishes partnerships that support the creation and implementation of strategies promoting healthy environments.
Demonstrates leadership in promoting environmentally healthy, safe, and sustainable policies & conditions.
The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) has partnered with the American Nurses’ Association (ANA) in the development and inclusion of an Environmental Health standard in the ANA’s Scope and Standards of Practice for nurses (2010). ANHE also has developed this website (http:/
American Nurses’ Association (ANA) Standard for Environmental Health
This is an exciting time for nursing! The American Nurses Association (ANA, 2010) has released its new Scope and Standards for nursing practice that includes a standard for Environmental Health! These standards form the baseline for every practicing registered nurse in the United States. The concepts are not new to nursing; even Florence Nightingale recognized the environment as crucial to the health of patients and communities. However, Florence did not have as many challenges as we face today.
For example, there are toxic chemicals all around us: at home in our personal care products, cleaning products and food; in schools and workplaces; and in the community. Pesticides are on our lawns and playing fields and in the food we eat. Chemicals are linked to cancer, reproductive effects, immune systems effects, developmental delays, and endocrine effects. These chemicals are on the rise in our environment and inside our bodies as well.
ANA acknowledges that environmental health is important enough to include in the Scope and Standards. This environmental health standard helps raise awareness of nurses and others that nurses have a significant role to play. From gaining knowledge about EH concepts to creating changes in practice and policy, the almost 3 million RN’s will have the tools they need to create a safer, healthier environment for all.
The following ANA (2010) Environmental Health standard identifies desired competencies for every registered nurse. This standard can guide every RN in developing his or her own competencies in environmental health. Use this standard to reflect on your own knowledge, skills and experiences. Identify examples from your own practice that demonstrate your Environmental Health competencies. Identify those competencies for which you require further development.
STANDARD 16. ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
The registered nurse practices in an environmentally safe and healthy manner.
The registered nurse:
Attain knowledge of environmental health concepts, such as implantation of environmental health strategies.
Promotes a practice environment that reduces environmental health risks of workers and healthcare consumers.
Assesses the practice environment for factors such as sound, odor, noise and light that negatively affect health.
Advocates for the judicious and appropriate use of products used in health care.
Communicates environmental health risks and exposure reduction strategies to healthcare consumers, families, colleagues and communities.
Utilizes scientific evidence to determine if a product or treatment is a potential environmental threat.
Participates in strategies to promote healthy communities.
Additional Competencies for the graduate-level prepared specialty nurse and the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse:
The graduate-level prepared specialty nurse and the advanced practice registered nurse:
Create partnerships that promote sustainable environmental health policies and conditions.
Analyze the impact of social, political, and economic influences upon the environment and human health exposures.
Critically evaluate the manner in which environmental health issues are presented by the popular media.
Advocate for implementation of environmental principles for nursing practice.
Support nurses in advocating for and implementing environmental principles in nursing practice.
Source: American Nurses Association (ANA). (2010). Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice, Second Edition. Silver Spring, MD: Nursebooks.org.
The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) as a Resource
The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) has developed this EnviRN website to assist you in developing competencies in Environmental Health. Here you can attain knowledge regarding Environmental Health and network with other nurses who have similar interests. The site enables you to exchange information and ideas, as well as collaborate, to promote healthy people and healthy environments.
The Essentials part of EnviRN is a good place to start if you want the basics. The Essentials is being developed as a virtual “textbook” on environmental health and nursing. The Essentials’ articles are peer-reviewed and written by leaders in environmental health nursing. The Essentials provides the latest information and resources for use in academic, clinical, and public arenas. Other resources at EnviRN include teaching strategies and links to other outstanding topics for environmental health and nursing.
Brief description: The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) has partnered with the American Nurses’ Association (ANA) in the development and inclusion of an Environmental Health standard in the ANA’s Scope and Standards of Practice for nurses.
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