June 23, 2024

Serene Nest

taking care of your health, Our Mission

Hospital Pharmacy Sustainability: Connecting Passion and Purpose

4 min read

Life has its way to open paths you would not suspect on your journey. There are enlightening moments that set a cornerstone and its rippled effect might only amplified to become apparent later in time. This happened to me in 2014 after having a transformational experience at the International Space University (ISU) Summer Program in Montréal. During this two-month intensive program, I had the opportunity to meet with inspiring people from various professional backgrounds, countries, and personal experience, who all shared the same passion: aerospace!

Now, you might be wondering why I started sharing my story with aerospace when the topic of this article is sustainability! Well, I had an “Aha!” moment during my time at ISU while listening to astronauts tell us about their life-changing experiences in Space and what stuck with me the most was what they called the “overview effect.” The overview effect was described back in 1987 by author and space philosopher Frank White, as the intense emotions astronauts go through when seeing our home planet against the blackness of space and the thin line atmosphere that protects life on our planet, raising awareness about the fragility of Earth and a deep connection to humanity. This learning in mind, I led then my first collaborative interdisciplinary and international project in aerospace, healthcare, and planetary health within the ISU community: “Space4Health: Exploring innovative ways to utilize space for disaster relief.”

Fast-forward to summer 2021, when I joined the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario – Ottawa Children’s Treatment Center (CHEO) as Director of Pharmacy. I was excited to learn that the organization has included a sustainability pillar in its strategic planning called “Kick the Carbon.” This pillar has an inspiring goal of reducing its carbon emissions by five percent each year, totaling 30 percent by 2025. That’s the equivalent of driving nine million kms in agas-powered car! To reach that goal, CHEO has put in place a Sustainability Steering Committee and a Sustainability Working Group, uniting passionate healthcare leaders who wanted to do more for our planet, our pediatric patients, youth, and their families. This was an important opportunity to translate our organizational strategy into our Hospital Pharmacy departmental strategy.

With those futures to fight for I had the why, but I was missing where to start, what to tackle first, who to involve and how to make it happen. In parallel, one of my colleagues shared with me that the University of Ottawa Telfer School of Management offers consulting projects led by their MBA students. A former MBA student myself, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for teaming up and building a hospital pharmacy sustainability strategy with the business lens. This collaboration led to our interdisciplinary project which, in turn, earned us the 2023 CSHP Excellence in Pharmacy Practice – Leadership Award. Our winning project, “Eco-Friendly Pharmacy Practices to Support a Sustainable Green Transition in Hospital Pharmacy,” included internal and external surveys to gain knowledge on hospital pharmacy sustainability practices.

From there we realized that there were gaps in this field and a need for a roadmap for sustainability practices. As a result, we launched a national survey, to learn more about Canadian hospital pharmacy and pharmacy professionals’ knowledge on eco-initiatives. Then, the results were presented as a poster at CSHP Professional Practice Conference and an article is currently under review for publication in the Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy. An important takeaway from our survey was that hospital pharmacy staff and leaders want to do more to reduce carbon footprint in their professional environment, but they are perceiving challenges to start or implement eco-initiatives. At that time, the top three perceived challenges by pharmacy leaders were cost, time and added complexity. Since then, however, multiple sustainability-based quality improvement projects have bloomed in hospital pharmacy. The publication of their projects’ successes offers timely knowledge translation, which supports pharmacy staff and leaders, looking to implement greener strategies in their professional environment.

The green wave is also gaining momentum, propagating throughout associations and the academic communities. For example, in January 2023, CSHP launched its Sustainability Task Force. As a participating member, I can testify to the positive and engaging energy it is bringing to the hospital pharmacy eco-movement. In March 2024, Caitlin Roy and Shellyza Sajwani, clinical pharmacists at the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ottawa hospital, respectively, founders of the Canadian Association of Pharmacy for the Environment (CAPhE), inaugurated the strategic plan. Robert Pammett, a co-lead at CAPhE, and Dr. Karen Dahri, both pharmacists and associate professors at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of University of British Columbia, have also shared their visionary and collaborative initiative to promote and integrate planetary health in pharmacy curricula in Canada.

The path towards sustainable hospital pharmacy practice is being paved. I encourage everyone to join the movement and take care of our planet. Building a healthy and thriving environment for the future generations starts by implementing and sharing green actions, however small they might feel, makes a difference! nH


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