Federica Pirro, BSc, MA, RN

An anaesthetic nurse with a vision of a healthier planet

Image of Federica Pirro

Federica Pirro, BSc, MA, RN

As the first health professional to join her hospital’s Green Team, Federica Pirro is working to make her hospital more sustainable one project at a time. The status quo in the healthcare sector will not prevent her from taking action to build a better planet for her children and patients alike.

“I cannot bear the idea that my son or daughter might come to me in 20 years' time and say you could have done something about climate change and you didn’t”, said Federica Pirro about what drives her to take climate action. 

Federica’s two children were born when Greta Thunberg first gained notability for calling policymakers out about their inaction on climate change. After hearing more about climate change’s effects on health, Federica feared for her children’s future and the world they would live in when they got older. 

“I did not want to feel powerless, and that’s why I started taking climate action on an individual level and with my family”, said Federica, “Then this idea built up in my mind that this wasn't enough and I could do something as a nurse as well.”

As a first step, she tried to learn as much as possible about climate change and how to fight it - this is how she found out about sustainable healthcare and the Nurses Climate Challenge. 

“I like the idea of nurses coming together and discussing climate change. It is exactly what I want to do - I want to transmit this knowledge and talk about it to my colleagues and friends”, said Federica, adding, “When I found out about the Nurses Climate Challenge Europe, I immediately signed up.”

Since becoming a Nurse Climate Champion, Federica has educated her entire team in the operating theatre on critical issues related to climate change and sustainability. “As theatre nurses, you see every day that we produce a lot of waste and use a lot of energy. We are not trained about all these things in the average nursing curriculum, so when someone tells you how much that impacts the environment, people are shocked,” she said when asked about how her colleagues responded. 

Using NCC Europe resources, Federica organised a series of five or ten-minute presentations putting a spotlight on the impact of healthcare. “The resources are great because they’re really simple. In my case, I don’t have a lot of time - the short presentation is perfect for me because it gives you a little bit of everything and introduces you to the topic. It also doesn’t make you feel like you need to be an expert on climate change or sustainability”, she said.

Although Federica feels it is vital for her colleagues to understand the extent of the problem, she’s also eager to kick start solutions. “Climate change will affect us as nurses, in the sense of what patients we will have to treat and the amount of work we will have to do,” she explains, adding hospitals will need to be prepared.

As the first staff nurse in her hospital’s Green Team, she is proud to bring a clinical perspective and suggest projects that directly address the impact of healthcare, such as her initiative to reduce unnecessary plastic in the surgical packages used in the operating theatre. Read more about this project in the NCC Europe case study Waste reduction in the operating theatre

“It’s an interesting project because it’s very simple and you don’t need to be anybody important in the hospital to do it. I did it alone as a staff nurse”, said Federica, adding that this was a fear she had when starting out. “I was very committed, but what I was most scared about is that I have no actual power. I am just a staff nurse, and I am not a manager, but this is 100% a nurse-led project, and I am so proud of that.”

Although it took a few months for management to support her projects, she is now the go-to person in her hospitals for all things sustainability.  She has implemented several projects across the hospital, including expanding her educational activities and addressing the impact of anaesthesia.

“Nurses are way more powerful than we think”, said Federica reflecting on her experience, “If we can reduce what we do in our hospital and people reduce what they do in another hospital, then we can all come together, and that’s where the numbers start to become big, and we can really have an impact.”

Originally from Italy, Federica has been living in Dublin for six years. However, she is currently in the process of moving back home and is hoping to continue to utilise her sustainability knowledge there. Between her work as a nurse, her sustainability projects, and taking care of her two children, she does not have a lot of spare time, but when she finds a free moment, she enjoys cycling and going on walks. She also regularly volunteers for the Italian Red Cross. 

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Have you implemented a similar project to Federica that combats climate change at your healthcare facility? Please get in touch with us and we’d love to share your story with our Nurse Climate Champions and inspire them to take climate action.