Northwest Organization of Nurse Leaders News

Leaders in Action January 2021 - 10 min read

Recall pre-covid? Allea Thoma-Putnam MSN, RN and Director of Patient Care Services at Legacy Mt. Hood and one of our Development Commission Leaders reminded us that being strategic also means getting back to those salient issues that existed prior to our pandemic response. In the January Leader in Action, Thomas-Putnam is taking aim at revitalizing motivation to (again) make incremental improvements in Sustainability. 
-10 minute read

NWONL - There is much said on this topic. It seems that pre-pandemic it was a common point of interest. What was your motivation to remind us of the value of sustainability and its connection to healthcare now?

Allea - "Well, a new year is upon us. A new year brings with it an opportunity to reflect upon learnings of the past and goals for the future. Given our recent environment, future goals may look different, but we strive to change and adapt to our new norm. One of my goals for this year; both personally and professionally, is to reduce my carbon footprint to increase sustainability."

NWONL - Thank you Allea for your personal insight. Lets get right to it!

Sustainability and its Value to Healthcare Delivery

Allea Thomas-Putnam, MSN, RN. Director of Patient Care Services, Legacy Mt. Hood

What is sustainability and more specifically, what is sustainability in health care?

A new era is upon us, and to stay viable in the industry of healthcare, we will need to think of different ways to do our business successfully. Our definition of success will have to migrate away from looking solely at financial gain (the bottom line) and shift to looking at the triple bottom line of society, economics, and environment. There are many different ideas which tie into the concept of sustainability. Sustainability in health care is just one facet of the overall sustainability success of our planet. Knowing this information, one may ask themselves what the definition of sustainability is for the healthcare industry. Schroeder et al., 2012, provides a larger definition. “Sustainability is about looking after things now so that they can be enjoyed not only by us up to the end our lives but also by future generations” (pg. 17). For health care, we must focus on the upcoming multi factorial crises in which is comprised of the five Cs: Carbon, Chronicity, CostCompass, and Compassion.

Sustainable Practices in Health Care

Sustainable practices can be described as practices that reduce utilization of resources and support the triple bottom line. In relation to the chronicity crisis, sustainable practices focus on looking upstream to the root of problems associated with chronic conditions such as diabetes,heart disease, obesity, and mental health disorders. Instead of providing sick care to our people, there should be an attempt to have a health care system with more preventative education and activities. Regarding the crisis of cost associated with healthcare, specifically in the United States, we must look for ways to reduce the cost of care.

There are numerous ways to do this. Telemedicine, reduction of use of high-cost diagnostic and interventions, rethinking quality of life versus quantity of life, and reimbursing health care providers for quality care; not quantity of care. For the compass crisis, sustainable practices should look at our country’s current technical advances against the outcomes. Data shows the United States does not have a longer life expectancy and healthier individuals which correlate with the amount of health care we receive and pay for. Sustainable practices for this crisis include making decisions on the purpose and direction of our country’s health care system.

Given our current situation, there needs to be a heavy focus on the compassion crisis. Sustainable practices should consider how to heal and protect the mental and physical wellbeing of our caregivers so they can provide compassionate quality care to our patients. And lastly, partner to develop sustainable health care practices which support a reduction of carbon emissions in the healthcare industry. Practices that facilitate this reduction are updating old buildings to be more energy efficient, building new sustainable buildings with green certifications (such as LEED), and looking at resources used in operations to increase reduction, reuse, and recycling.

The future of healthcare will require innovation to stay viable. Environmental changes – both natural and manmade - impact community health and are reason for healthcare leadership to pay attention to sustainability. Now is the time to creatively envision a new wave of sustainable approaches for our nation’s healthcare environments. Organizational missions that support sustainability encourages development that connects to the triple bottom line—planet, people, and profits.


Siebenaller, B. (2012). Connecting sustainability to the healthcare mission. Healthcare Design, 12(5), 74–77.

Thompson, T., & Schroeder, K., (2015). A vision for sustainable healthcare. Journal of Holistic Healthcare, 12(1), 11-17.