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About Elizabeth Schenk, PhD, RN, FAAN

Elizabeth Schenk is the Executive Director of Environmental Stewardship for Providence St. Joseph Health, and is an Assistant Research Professor at Washington State University.

Dr. Schenk’s primary research interest is the environmental impacts of healthcare, which she has been working to reduce for over 25 years. As a nurse, she sees the many tons of waste produced at the bedside, the constant high-intensity use of energy, and exposures of staff and patients to toxic chemicals. Through energy conservation and waste reduction, environmental stewardship efforts at her hospital save almost a million dollars per year. In earning her PhD, she developed the Nurses Environmental Awareness Tool, which measures nurses’ awareness of these challenges, how related they are to health, and what they do about them.  The tool has been used across the nation, in 8 different countries, and translated into 3 additional languages. She is currently developing the CHANT: Climate, Health and Nursing Tool, with other colleagues.

In addition, Dr. Schenk conducts health system research based on current nursing issues including reduction of nosocomial harm and impacts of the electronic health record. With colleagues across the health system, Dr. Schenk has led the development of the Providence St. Joseph Clinical Scholarship Framework, a guide to generating new evidence and using existing evidence to improve nursing practice.

Personal Statement:
Human health is affected by many factors.  Nursing has long been concerned with the individual in the context of his or her environment, including family and social environments, and the immediate physical surroundings.  At this point in our human history, it is clear that human health is also affected by the condition of the larger natural environment, including regional and global influences such as climate change, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, and exposures to novel entities (chemicals and toxicants).
Healthcare, including nursing practice, serves the purpose of creating, achieving and sustaining health for the people and communities it serves.  At the same time, healthcare itself furthers damage to the natural environment through the significant contributions it makes to climate change, waste accumulation and the use of environmental toxicants. In turn, these negative impacts put human health at further risk. Nurses are guided by their standard of practice, which states “The registered nurse practices in an environmentally safe and healthy manner.” Yet, the topic of environmental impacts of healthcare and nursing practice is not routinely addressed in educational curricula, practice policies, or outcomes measures.

In order to decrease environmentally damaging healthcare practices, information about the topic needs to be addressed in the education of clinical professionals, as well as in daily practice. However, little is known about the awareness of practicing nurses of environmental impacts of nursing practice. In response to this gap, Dr. Schenk developed the Nurses Environmental Awareness Tool, to measure nurse awareness and associated behaviors. This set of six scales can be adapted to other clinical professions to measure awareness and behaviors related to the environmental impacts of healthcare in clinical settings.

Climate Change has emerged as a significant risk to human health. Nurses are in key positions to educate patients, families, and communities about these risks, and to make practice changes to reduce greenhouse gas production. Again, little is known about nurses’ awareness of the health impacts of climate change. Dr. Schenk, with other colleagues, is developing the CHANT: Climate, Health, and Nursing Tool, to measure nurses’ awareness, motivation, urgency and behaviors related to climate change and health. CHANT will serve as an ongoing measure of the nation’s nurses regarding this crucial health concern.


2020 - Present Executive Director of Environmental Stewardship, Providence St. Joseph Health
2017 - Present Adjunct Faculty Member, University of Colorado ‐ College of Nursing
2014 - Present Assistant Research Professor, Washington State University ‐ College of Nursing
2010 - Present Adjunct Faculty Member, University of Montana ‐ School of Pharmacy and Allied Health
2008 - Present Sustainability Coordinator, Providence St. Joseph Health Providence St. Patrick Hospital
2014 - 2020 Nurse Scientist and Sustainability Coordinator, Providence St. Joseph Health
2009 - 2014 Magnet Program Director, Providence St. Joseph Health Providence St. Patrick Hospital

Curriculum Vitae


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Professional Service and Affiliations

2019 - Present Founding board member (treasurer), Montana Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate
2018 - Present Member, Public and Environmental Health Expert Panel, American Academy of Nursing
2017 - Present Founder, producer and host, Nurses for Healthy Environments Podcast
2015 - Present Board Member, Alliance of Nurses for Healthier Environments
2015 - Present Member and Reviewer, Western Institute of Nursing
2012 - Present Chair, Practice Work Group, Alliance of Nurses for Healthier Environments
2010 - Present Reviewer, American Journal of Nursing
2010 - Present Member, Mayor’s Advisory Board for Climate Change, Missoula, MT
2010 - Present Board Member and Co-Chair, The Institute of Medicine and Humanities, St. Patrick Hospital and the University of Montana
2008 - Present Member and Founding President, Regional Environmental Stewardship Council
2020 Founding board member (chair), Climate Smart Missoula
2017 - 2020 Awards Committee Member, American Public Health Association, Public Health Nursing Section
2010 - 2016 Board Member, Clark Fork Coalition, Missoula, MT
2010 - 2015 Member, National Steering Committee, Alliance of Nurses for Healthier Environments
2008 - 2014 Member, Nurses Working Group for Healthcare Without Harm
2011 - 2013 Founder and Conference Planner, Turning the Tide: Reclaiming Human Health by Restoring the Planet.
2010 - 2012 Member, Education Committee, Sustainable Business Council, Missoula, MT
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Honors and Awards

  • 2019 Distinguished Alumna of the University of Montana
  • 2018 Induction as Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing.
  • 2017 Charlotte Brody Award for Nursing Leadership in Environmental Health, Healthcare Without Harm
  • 2016 Honorary Doctorate of Dedication, Climate Smart Missoula, Missoula, Montana
  • 2013 Outstanding PhD Student Award, Washington State University, Spokane, Washington, December
  • 2012 Community Engagement Award from Women’s Voices for the Earth, Missoula, Montana, September
  • 2007 Spirit of the Heart award, Missoula, Montana


2010 - 2013 Ph.D., Washington State University ‐ Nursing
2007 - 2008 M.H.I., Arizona State University ‐ Healthcare Innovation, Nursing
B.S., Montana State University-Bozeman
B.A., University of Montana, Missoula ‐ Botany

Articles (32)