A Days Work at the Toronto Western ICU – Part 1

It’s funny to think about but ICU staff recycle too.  Last summer an ICU nurse invited me to visit the Loretta Anne Rogers Critical Care Centre at Toronto Western Hospital.  This state-of-the-art facility sees 1000s of patients every year.  Yes, they are very busy.  Yes, they are doing lots of things that I am absolutely clueless about. Yes, in addition to all the critical care they are providing, staff are looking for ways to make recycling easier. That’s where I come in.

So the physical layout of the centre is unique.  The 9 “pods” of 4 patient rooms are clustered together around a common workspace.  Staff have a good view of their patients from this perch and access to the items they need to provide the care required.  There are some desks and chairs, computers and monitors as well as carts with supplies.  What I didn’t see enough of was recycling bins.

How can they recycle if they don’t have enough bins?  In this situation recycling is indeed very difficult.  At UHN we can recycle a lot of materials and staff in all areas participate actively and eagerly in recycling.  But the program is only as good as the people who participate in it.  We don’t have staff who sort trash.  Every single person has to find and use the right bin when the time comes to pitch out their waste.  We know that for the most part this system works out well – with all of our hospitals heading toward a 50% diversion rate.

However this approach can be challenging especially in areas that use so many different items and are working so quickly with the primary focus being their patients, of course.   So what is a lone ICU nurse to do?  Call Energy and Environment. That is what we are here for – to identify and remove barriers to make recycling easy.  Which sometimes is not easy to do.  

Once I got the invitation to come by I started off speaking with staff about how, when and where things get tossed out.  I had a look in the bins to physically see how they are being used and surveyed the walls for potential posted recycling reminders.  The staff who work in the area day-to-day really are the experts they have great ideas about what would work and what won’t.  To start, having the right bins could really help.  

I mapped out the entire floor plan and where I thought new bins could be placed.  Then my contact on the inside left for a job in a different country.  Can you say “slam the brakes”?  Without her the project almost died….until the Nurse Manager got involved.

Stay tuned to the blog for ongoing updates on this story.

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