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Denise Choiniere – RN, BSN and Hospital Environmentalist

By Admin | August 3, 2008


Where are you from?

I grew up in Connecticut

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

I graduated from Syracuse University twice, with a BA in Psychology and a BS in Nursing.

What has been your career path from college to your current position?

I traveled the US after graduating with my psych degree, returning to nursing school three years later.

I graduated nursing school in 1995 and took my first nursing job at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, VT. I worked there for 2 years and then moved to Maryland, where my husband was starting graduate school.

Our intention was to live in Maryland only temporarily. We planned on moving back to VT after he finished his degree. Well, 11 years later, we are still here.

I have been working at University of Maryland Medical Center since arriving in Maryland 11 years ago.

What is your weekly schedule like? How much of your time is clinical nursing and how much time do you spend on your environmental duties?

Unfortunately, I do not have time to do much clinical nursing. I am a full time graduate student with 2 part time jobs and a family.

I tend to return to the bedside during my semester breaks. I spend about 8 hrs a week working on coordinating environmental initiatives. I also work for Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (MDH2E) part time.

How did you get interested in heightening awareness of environmental concerns at UMMC?

I have always considered myself an environmentalist. In Vermont, recycling was just common practice. I was surprised when I came to Maryland and nobody was recycling.

Before getting started, I heard Dr. Barbara Sattler give a talk on the environmental risks that were present in the health care setting. It just did not make sense to me that hospitals were causing harm to patients, employees and the community.

As a health care provider, the last thing I wanted to do was to cause harm, and I believe all health care providers share that commitment, they just do not know they are contributing to the risks. That was the turning point in my career.

One of your projects has been to implement a battery recycling program in the hospital. How would you rate your success?

The rollout was successful. Our facilities director manages the collection and pickup of the batteries, as well as the data. He would be able to speak better to its “success.”

Do you have any outcome data that support that the quiet hour in your unit from 2 to 3PM has improved patient’s health?

I do not have data supporting improved patient health, but I do have data supporting improved patient satisfaction in regards to quiet hour.

The noise level in the unit was always a patient dissatisfier, as well a staff complaint. Patients remark that they love quiet hour, they appreciate the one hour of uninterrupted time.

One patient even said, “Thank you for asking my visitors to step out, I did not want to be rude and tell them that I needed a nap”.

Staff comment on how they like the time to catch up on paper work, check orders, or just a moment to sit down and eat something.

Did you meet any resistance from caregivers or management who maintain that units are set up for 24 hour care and that declaring care to be “off-limits” for one hour is not acceptable and dangerous to patients?

Patients require rest to recover, so “care” does not stop during quiet hour. Of course, I have met resistance and ridicule, usually from those who are working according to their own personal schedule in order to get things done, not according to the patient’s schedule.

What advice would you give to someone in the hospital who would like to get started working on environmental issues?

To start form a Green Team. There are many resources out there such as Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth. I bet there are many folks in hospitals that would like to support such an important initiative. I suggest starting with smaller projects; quick, easy wins will help motivate the group.

What are your career plans in the environmental/green industry?

To continue “greening” UMMC and other Maryland hospitals. I would like to engage more nurses in this movement.

Nurses have the highest rate of work related asthma and are at risk for many health problems due to their continuous exposures to chemicals and carcinogens. I would like to make nursing practice safer, if we can make hospitals safer for nurses, then it is safer for the patients.

What is your next project in the hospital in the environmental health area?

I am working on coordinating a farmers market to take place in a park across the street from the hospital. This would be an opportunity for staff, visitors and patients to purchase locally grown produce and support the local farming community.

Have you calculated your own personal or household carbon footprint?


What type of cars do you own and what type of car do you drive to work?

I decline to answer this question, for many reasons.

Copyright 2008 DailyInterview.com

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