Friday, May 5, 2017
Sena Chae

College of Nursing PhD student Sena Chae, MSN, RN, and her colleague, Kang San Lee, a graduate student from the department of geographical and sustainability science, were recently awarded second place in the 2017 Frontier Co-op Tippie Impact Competition. The two received a $1,000 cash prize for their project, which involved developing a sustainable business model for PVC-free medical bags.

“Based on my experience as a perioperative nurse, I was aware of the use of disposables and the infectious characteristic of medical waste in hospital settings,” explained Chae. “When I discussed this with Kang San, he hit on a new idea for medical bags.”

The following excerpt is from the project’s abstract:

Health care organizations are increasingly focused on improving efficiency, reducing overall costs, and improving the quality of care. While reducing the use of disposables in our daily lives is commonly recommended, using disposables in health care environments is unavoidable because of the infectious characteristics of medical waste. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is the material most widely used in medical supplies such as bags and tubing. There is a growing consensus among environmental organizations regarding the carcinogenic risk of Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), which is generated by items made with PVC.

Polypropylene (PP) is a sustainable plastic because it has lower density and produces the lowest carbon dioxide emissions when compared to other plastics. A common concern with PVC substitutions (such as PP) is the higher cost. We suggest a sustainable business model to offset the price of alternative materials like PP through earnings from advertisements of organizations such as health insurance companies. For example, “this PVC-free medical bag is provided by Wellmark.” This idea could be challenging to accept in the early stage; however, it will provide an innovative opportunity to shift the perception and pursue sustainability in hospital settings. It can improve patient safety while reducing air pollution.

“This is a very significant award because it recognizes an interdisciplinary project, and that spirit of collaboration is an important part of our mission and PhD preparation,” said Sandra Daack-Hirsch PhD, RN, associate professor and director of the PhD program.

Chae’s additional research interests include nursing administration, nursing classification, and nursing informatics. She chose UI’s College of Nursing to pursue her PhD because of the faculty’s remarkable reputation and expertise. After completing her PhD, Chae aspires to become a nurse scientist, who actively disseminates the seeds of knowledge, and an educator who can help students develop both practical skills and a broad perspective.

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