The Importance of Empathy in Environmental Work

In my STEM for Solar class near the beginning of the year, we read an article about empathy and design thinking.  One segment of the article mentioned the rotation of nurse shifts in Kaiser Permanente and how they could improve those shifts in order to maximize the care for the patients.  A study conducted beforehand demonstrated that the nurse would debrief the incoming staff on the status of the patients for 45 minutes, and that despite this debriefing, they would miss some of the most important aspects of the patients conditions.  Wanting to rectify this problem, they developed a piece of computer software that enable the previous nurses to jot down notes about the patients throughout the shift, rather than debriefing the incoming nurses at the end of the shift.  As a result, not only did their productivity increase, but the interconnectivity between nurses and patients increased.

I mention this article because understanding where the problem originates is the key to developing a solution.  It’s easy to state that there is a problem that needs to be fixed.  The true challenge is finding out what exactly causes the problem in the first place, and taking the steps to fix it.

This is why what we do in this class is crucial.  With guest speakers and peer teaching, our understanding of the matters at hand increases, and we use this knowledge to develop potential solutions.  Through the year-round projects, not only can we put our empathy to work, but we are able to gain a better understanding of the process of a large-scale project, which we can take into our lives in environmental work.



  1. hwichaz · April 21, 2016

    This is very true Julie. To fix the overall problem you need to go right after the core of the problem. Going after the core of the problem is how we will better the environment, especially when it come to pollution.


  2. dstraqua · April 26, 2016

    I enjoy this post, because there is so much truth in it. I find it necessary for more of today’s youth to become involved in what goes on in the world. The biggest issue is, of course, the environment. It is absolutely imperative that we band together and educate each other. I am glad to be in this class, because in it, we learn off of each other’s experiences and are able to share in their knowledge.


  3. kelpea · April 26, 2016

    I like this post as well. It’s easy to look at all of our projects and say- “well it wasn’t what we wanted” or “well it could have gone better”. The way I like to view our class is that anyway we commit to helping spread information on this issue, the better off we are. Maybe only 5 people come to our event, but thats 5 people that can make a difference. Those five people can tell 5 other people and eventually something will be done. As I have an interest in sociology, this is called people power. If enough people care, we will be heard.


  4. rogerwleblanc · May 2, 2016

    Julie, thanks for your post! Very true! It’s not enough to name the problem, but to find the root source of it. In the case of renewable I think it would be good to know what are the exact technological and market barriers to making the transition. PS. did you see this week that Burlington, Vermont went 100% clean energy?


Add to the discussion... :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s