Background: Before the implementation of single-use devices (SUD) in health care, medical equipment was sterilized and reused. Now many medical devices are used once and then thrown away, contributing to the 5.9 million tons of medical waste produced yearly. This project explores nursing attitudes toward single-use medical devices, evaluates current recycling practices and examines whether student nurses would be likely to use reprocessed SUDs in their practice if given the option. Methodology: After obtaining IRB approval, students enrolled in nursing research courses were invited to participate in this exploratory study. 157 undergraduate nursing students completed the 46-question survey. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the survey results, independent t-tests were used to compare groups and content analysis was used to analyze open-ended responses. Results: The typical student was female, age 30, licensed as a registered nurse and enrolled in the RN to BSN program. Most students (84.7%) viewed themselves as environmentally conscious, and most recycle at home (75.5%) and at work (54.7%). Most agreed (96.8%) that hospitals produce a lot of hazardous waste and that it is the hospitals responsibility for environmentally friendly waste disposal. The majority also agreed (80%) that nurses have the ability to impact waste production at a hospital. More than half (67.7%) agreed that SUD disposal contributes to environmental pollution and many (76.6%) felt that nurses should be responsible for environmental health concepts. Most (81.6%) felt that SUDs should be thrown out after one use and few (28.5%) felt that SUDs can be reused if sterilized. Most (74.0%) also believed that SUD reuse contributes to hospital acquired infections, but a little more than half (56.3%) were willing to reuse a SUD that had only touched intact skin if sterilized for reuse. Additionally, most respondents (79.1%) would consider joining a "green team" at work.; Those who recycle at home were more likely to identify as environmentally conscious than those who do not recycle at home. No generational differences existed when considering environmental consciousness. Generation X was more likely to recycle at home than Generation Y, but no generational differences existed when analyzing work recycling habits. Generation X was also more likely to see single-use device disposal as contributing to environmental pollution than Generation Y. Home recyclers were more likely to agree that nurses have the ability to decrease the amount of hospital trash production, and more likely to join a green team than non-recyclers. They also believed that SUD disposal contributes to environmental pollution, SUDs can be reused if sterilized, and disagreed that SUD reuse contributes to hospital acquired infections when compared to those who do not recycle at home. Discussion: While most students agree that hospitals produce large amounts of waste and should be responsible for the disposal of it in an environmentally friendly manner, most are hesitant to use reprocessed SUDs as a means to make the hospital more environmentally friendly. Student responses indicated the largest perceived barriers to SUD reuse were fears of inadequate sterilization and fears of the spread of disease. Conclusions: Most students, especially home recyclers, believe themselves to be environmentally conscious and most were willing to consider reusing some SUDs. Translating this belief into action can happen through education in line with the Scope and Standards of practice for nursing, as well as establishing the safety of SUDs through further research.


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Thesis Completion





Loerzel, Victoria


Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.)


College of Nursing

Degree Program



Dissertations, Academic -- Nursing;Nursing -- Dissertations, Academic







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

Included in

Nursing Commons