Opinion: As a nurse, I know what climate change does to the body


As a registered nurse working in Atlanta, I have witnessed how climate change shows up in the ER.

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion.

Worsening symptoms from chronic diseases, such as asthma and heart disease.

Patients don’t arrive at the emergency room or go to health care providers stating they were there due to illness from “climate change.”

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

But as nurses, we know that climate change is a clear factor for these patients seeking care, especially during the summer.

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked in the Atlanta area hospital Intensive Care Unit float pool. The pandemic has shown us that we must be prepared for the future.

As a nurse, I have seen firsthand how extreme heat impacts patients and our community.

A growing number of extreme heat days and an aging population means a greater portion of Georgia’s population could be medically vulnerable to extreme heat.

As the heat outside becomes more unbearable and dangerous, the homeless will be particularly vulnerable.

Nursing and health care systems will be pushed to their limits as climate change and extreme heat increases the number of patients requiring care.

For these reasons, I was thrilled to see President Joe Biden sign the Inflation Reduction Act into law.

The patients that I have cared for have had numerous aspects of their environment outside their control, and this historic climate bill will support important programs to help eliminate the pollution that worsens patients’ health outcomes.

Reducing climate pollution is crucial.

This legislation is the single biggest investment in climate, communities and clean energy.

While the Inflation Reduction Act will improve public health, it cannot be the end of our leaders’ efforts to act on climate and address pollution.

Now, we need the Biden administration to finish the job.

The president has committed to cutting climate pollution in half by 2030.

While these investments get us closer to that goal, we still need the administration to implement solutions for pollution across federal agencies so we can get to the full 50-52% reduction in climate pollution that scientists tell us is necessary and President Biden promised to meet.

Mariah Landry lives in Atlanta. She worked as a nurse for 8 years, in ICU, ER and COVID units. Landry is a member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and currently works as a data analyst in public health.