A Sustainable Healthcare Elective Experience

With the climate crisis posing both the greatest threat and greatest opportunity for health in the 21st Century, I was excited to start my elective with the CSH to explore the work that's being done within the UK. Throughout my medical degree I have been passionate about the social determinants of health and climate action, and hoped this elective would be a great way to explore the relationship between them within a healthcare perspective.  

I have been involved in a great range of projects. Starting with the Introduction to Sustainable Healthcare course allowed me to re-enforce prior knowledge and discover new aspects of planetary health. Along with fellow elective students and volunteers, I worked on the Sustainable Quality Improvement project, Carbon Footprinting, educational materials for Mental Health and Primary Care, and the Nitrous Oxide Project. These involved a range of tasks, from reviewing e-learning materials and websites, to calculating the carbon footprint of syringes, to giving talks and facilitating discussions on the principles of sustainable healthcare with Masters students.

I have absolutely loved the last 6 weeks, and feel more inspired to continue working within healthcare after realising that, firstly, there are ways of changing healthcare to have less of an environmental impact, and that secondly, there's a world of people and organisations pushing this work forward into the mainstream. It's been great working on projects with fellow volunteers and staff, being able to hear different perspectives and learn from those who have been working on this for a number of years. As healthcare professionals we must first do no harm, and this guiding principle has been reiterated throughout.

I would highly recommend volunteering or doing an elective with the CSH. It's particularly suited to those who enjoy self-directed tasks, are able to work well remotely and independently and have a particular aspect of healthcare that interests you. Stefi and her team have been wonderful to work with, and I'm so thankful for the experiences I've had during these last few weeks. 

jessica burt imageJessica Burt

Final Year Medical Student at the University of Leeds