From the moment she organized her first Earth Day in 1970, Barbara Sattler, DrPH, RN, FAAN, says the environment, social justice, and human health have been important issues to her.
Sattler started her career in nursing focused on the individual patient, but in the 1980s, she began looking at the health of the whole community, specifically those exposed to environmental risks. For example, she noticed changes in the behavior of workers in a chemical plant that manufactured pesticides. She also worked with Baltimore youth on urban environmental health problems such as lead poisoning. As a nurse, Sattler says, it's important to help people make better decisions about possible exposures. "We hope nurses realize their capacity to educate patients and fellow nurses about critical issues such as the chemicals we use in our everyday lives."
Sattler is a professor at the School of Nursing and teaches in the Community/Public Health Nursing program—the only nursing program in the country with an environmental focus. Sattler encourages her students to ask what they can do as nurses to make policy changes for environmental health issues.
As the director of the Environmental Health Education Center at the University, Sattler helps Maryland hospitals consider their ecological impact on patient health and makes efforts to integrate environmental health into the nursing field. She says, "We [nurses] need to be one of many that take responsibility for environmental health."
In order to live more sustainably on a daily basis, Sattler recommends recycling, taking advantage of carpools or public transportation, and conserving energy by turning off lights at the end of the day. For more information on how to live sustainability, see "Make Your Living Space a Green Space." For more information on how to bring sustainability into health care, visit "Resource Guide."
Story by Tracy Gnadinger