In the summer of 2023, BC Cancer and the Energy and Environmental Sustainability (EES) Team, embarked on a joint project to uncover the depths of clinicians’ dedication to sustainable health-care practices. The collaboration between the BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit, the EES team, and the UBC Sustainability Program aimed to shed light on the knowledge, willingness, and challenges faced by front-line clinical teams in integrating sustainability into their daily practices.
The project, led by UBC graduate student Eunice Bawafaa, involved interviews with twelve health-care professionals, including physicians and other health professionals, unveiling a rich tapestry of insights. These professionals, hailing from diverse age groups and genders across BC, showcased a nuanced understanding of climate change and its impact on their work within the oncology unit.
Participants demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainable activities, envisioning a future where walking or cycling to work, reducing waste, and driving electric cars became the norm. Their aspirations extended to a desire for energy-efficient buildings, climate-friendly chemotherapy drugs, and a robust recycling program within BC Cancer.
However, the interviews also highlighted significant challenges, such as limited recycling infrastructure and a sense of hopelessness among staff. Despite these obstacles, participants proposed resilient strategies, including grassroots initiatives, clear communication channels, and a cultural shift towards waste reduction.
The unveiling of co-benefits was a standout moment in the interviews, as participants envisioned positive impacts on patients, staff, the health-care institution, and the broader community. Empowerment, gratification, improved care, and a positive impact on health equity emerged as key themes.
The project’s recommendations have delineated a roadmap towards sustainable health care. Covering aspects from visible actions and workplace culture to patient involvement and eco-friendly purchasing, these proposed strategies mark the initial steps towards cultivating a harmonious future where sustainability and patient care seamlessly coexist. This roadmap serves as a starting point, and its potential can be further enriched through additional research and ongoing efforts. For a detailed overview, you can explore the full report by clicking here.
As BC Cancer Care continues its commitment to transformative change, this project stands as a testament to the clinicians’ dedication to creating a healthier, more resilient, and sustainable future for all.
Bawafaa, the driving force behind this endeavor, has expressed her gratitude and acknowledged the significant contributions, feedback, and support received throughout the project from her project mentors. These mentors include Maura Brown, Radiologist and Provincial co-chair of BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit; Nina Akhtar, Energy and Environmental Sustainability Team; Shilo Lefresne, Radiation Oncologist and BC Cancer Planetary Health Unit Site Lead; and Scott Beck, a Clinical Nurse Specialist at BC Cancer.