Partner perspective: PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center

Published: 07/19/2022 - 10:56
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Brian Nelson stands on a beach with dog
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Brian Nelson

Sustainability programs manager at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center

Number of beds: 450 licensed (386 staffed)

Number of FTE: 4,925

PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center’s sustainability programs manager shares how dedicated colleagues and collaborations support the hospital’s sustainability initiatives and their hospital's “secret green weapon.”

How has Practice Greenhealth supported you and your work?

The opportunity to be able to reach out to sustainability colleagues who understand the issues that I’m navigating and learn how they achieved positive results is invaluable – we have neither the time nor the need to recreate the wheel.

How would you describe your relationship with Practice Greenhealth in one word?


How and why has sustainability been prioritized at your hospital?

Like many other hospitals, we have sustainability built into our core culture through our stewardship value – to be accountable to our community for the “responsible utilization of human, financial, and environmental resources.” Putting that into daily practice and making it a part of all of our operational decisions is the primary work of our program.

Successful sustainability and resilience programs require collaboration across many departments and shared ownership and responsibility. Internally, has there been a recent collaboration that has surprised you and elevated your work?  

I’d noticed for a few months that a mystery person was taking recycling materials out to our dock and was correctly using the bins. From the materials, I guessed it was from our NICU, but it wasn’t until several managers did some sleuthing that I found out it wasn't just a single person, but an entire group of motivated nurses in the NICU who had taken it upon themselves to start their own collection program. While we’ve been busy dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to organize a campus-wide recycling program, they blew me away with their initiative. Finding out about a sustainability initiative I had nothing to do with was a wonderful example of our stewardship value being demonstrated and of how our culture is evolving with sustainability as a core motivation.

PeaceHealth Southwest

Tell us about a teammate or colleague at your hospital who is going above and beyond in their focus on healthier environments and healthier people.

One of our OR assistants, Karman Vulcani, is our secret “green” weapon in our OR efforts. While she’d tried for several years to get various green initiatives going with her teammates, the nuances of interdepartmental operations kept throwing up barriers. Since starting work to support her and her team to initiate recycling programs for blue wrap, glass, cardboard, and plastics recycling, we’ve been able to use these successes to bring several of our sister hospitals on board with similar programs, and the successes are multiplying. Everyone needs a Karman on their team.

Tell us about a sustainability program or initiative at your hospital that has benefited your community. How has it improved the environment, the bottom line, and people’s health?

One of our OR physician champions, Dr. Leyda Carvajal, had been working since 2018 to get her fellow anesthesiologists to reduce their desflurane usage. While she knew they’d reduced their usage, it wasn’t until we joined Practice Greenhealth that we were able to use tools to show just how much. A year after we began our formal sustainability program in 2021, our continued reduction efforts led our leadership to approve our recommendation to remove desflurane from hospital formulary. The part that surprised us was that within six weeks of starting discussions with our sister hospitals to educate them about desflurane, all of them had either completely removed the gas or significantly reduced their usage – we’re down to less than .01% of total anesthetic gas minutes for this year. This was a great example of how piloting in one hospital before spreading the impact to the rest of our system can lead to huge successes for our organization.

How did you get interested in it in this work?

I purposefully sought out a role in health care sustainability because the opportunities to make an impact are so great. I love what I do, and can’t believe I get paid to do this every day.


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