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School of Nursing Saves Thousands of Dollars Annually Through Sustainability Efforts

health-science-2013-245Belmont Director of College Health Science Simulation and Assistant Nursing Professor Dr. Beth Hallmark is committed to the University’s sustainability ideals as she leads the School of Nursing’s (SON) efforts to reuse and recycle simulation equipment.

In a simulation lab, students are given the opportunity to practice nursing skills in a safe environment, complete with set-ups that mimic hospitals in the Nashville area and use the same equipment students will see in their clinical rotations. Although this opportunity is an invaluable educational experience, it can be very costly.

With the popularity of nursing on the rise and Belmont’s School becoming more and more successful, Hallmark said her interest in the School’s sustainability efforts began when she started to notice the increase of nursing students and the sheer volume of supplies needed.

Simply recycling the equipment used by students wouldn’t have been adequate, since a large part of the lab is learning sterile techniques when opening equipment. To reproduce this experience for each student but cut down on cost, Hallmark decided to start the SON’s reuse program. Since simulations utilize state of the art mannequins and no contamination of supplies occurs, the reuse of simulation equipment is sanitary and safe.health-science-2013-113

Now, a number of student workers are trained to clean equipment once it has been used in a simulation. Using a detailed guide, workers re-package tools so they look the same for the next student who will open them.

Hallmark takes the SON’s program one step further by personally traveling to area hospitals and healthcare organizations to collect unused and expired supplies that would have been thrown away. Since the simulations work only on mannequins, expired equipment can provide training for nursing students. The equipment that the SON cannot use or does not need is donated to a local nonprofit, ProjectCure.

“The SON has been blessed with unbelievable facilities and thanks to Mr. Inman and grants from local organizations like the Memorial Foundation, we continue to have the best facilities; however, it is important that we are good stewards of what we have been given,” Hallmark said. “We truly believe that we are called to honor the verse in Luke that reminds us, ‘to whom much is given, much is required.’”

With the combination of the SON’s reuse program and the unused supplies collected from area organizations, Hallmark estimates than an average $40,000 is saved yearly. With this savings, Hallmark says the program is able to save budgeting for specialty items that might not have otherwise been purchased.