Nudging intensive care unit personnel towards sustainable behaviour

Sophie Van Der Zee, Tamarah Verhoog, Theo Post, Pilar Garcia-Gomez*, Erik M. van Raaij, Jan-Carel Diehl, Nicole Hunfeld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The health care sector is among the most carbon-intensive sectors, contributing to societal problems like climate change. Previous research demonstrated that especially the use of personal protective equipment (e.g., aprons) in critical care contributes to this problem. To reduce personal protective equipment waste, new sustainable policies are needed.

Policies are only effective if people comply. Our aim is to examine whether compliance with sustainable policies in critical care can be increased through behavioural influencing. Specifically, we examined the effectiveness of two sets of nudges (i.e., a Prime + Visual prompt nudge and a Social norm nudge) on decreasing apron usage in an intensive care unit (ICU).

Study Design
We conducted a field experiment with a pre- and post-intervention measurement. Upon the introduction of the new sustainable policy, apron usage data were collected for 9 days before (132 observations) and 9 days after (114 observations) the nudge interventions were implemented.

Neither the Prime + Visual prompt nudge, nor the Social norm nudge decreased apron usage.

While previous studies have found that primes, visual nudges and social norm nudges can increase sustainable behaviour, we did not find evidence for this in our ICU field experiment. Future research is needed to determine whether this null finding reflects reality, or whether it was due to methodological decisions and limitations of the presented experiment.

Relevance to Clinical Practice
The presented study highlights the importance of studying behavioural interventions that were previously proven successful in the lab and in other field contexts, in the complex setting of critical care. Results previously found in other contexts may not generalize directly to a critical care context. The unique characteristics of the critical care context also pose methodological challenges that may have affected the outcomes of this experiment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalNursing in Critical Care
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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