A word in fourhundred words – sustainability

The term “sustainability” finds its roots in the Latin word “sustĭnēre,” which is a compound of “sus-,” a variant of “sub-” meaning “under,” and “tenere,” which translates to “keep.” This etymology reflects the essence of sustainability, as it implies the idea of supporting or upholding something over time, ensuring its continuity and endurance. 

Today, sustainability refers to meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future ones to meet their own. This concept is often associated with ecological awareness and resource preservation, but it extends beyond environmental concerns and can be applied to various aspects of life, including healthcare.

Sustainability in healthcare mirrors the principles of sustainability in environmental contexts. It involves striking a delicate balance between quality care and both human and natural resources. Recognizing the limits of human resources entails acknowledging the capacity and capabilities of healthcare professionals, institutions, and systems.

Healthcare providers play a crucial role in delivering quality care to patients, but they also face constraints in terms of time, expertise, and humanpower. Understanding and facing these limitations is essential to ensure that healthcare services are delivered efficiently, effectively and emphatically. This involves optimizing workflows, promoting teamwork and collaboration, and providing adequate training and support to healthcare professionals.

Moreover, recognizing the limits of human resources also involves acknowledging the importance of self-care and well-being for healthcare professionals. The demanding nature of the healthcare profession can lead to burnout and stress, impacting the quality of care provided. Ensuring the well-being of healthcare professionals through measures like work-life balance, mental health support, and professional development is crucial for sustaining a skilled and motivated healthcare workforce.

Narrative medicine plays a crucial role in detecting the unsustainable limitations and constraints that healthcare providers face. Practioners’ stories can shed light on the impact of heavy workloads, emotional tolls, and the pressure to deliver high-quality care while coping with limited resources. Through narrative medicine, it is possible to identifying areas where the system may be placing undue strain on practitioners and potentially compromising patient care and experience. This heightened awareness allows for targeted interventions and systemic improvements to promote the well-being of both patients and healthcare providers, contributing to a more sustainable healthcare system overall.

In conclusion, the etymology of the term “sustainability” reflects its essence in supporting and upholding something over time, a concept applicable to various aspects of life, including healthcare. In this context, narrative medicine emerges as a powerful tool to enhance sustainability in healthcare. By recognizing the limits of human and natural resources in healthcare and embracing a holistic perspective, healthcare systems can work towards a more resilient, compassionate, and sustainable future for patients, healthcare providers, and generations to come.

Enrica Leydi

Born in Milan, she obtained a three-year degree in Modern Literature at the Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna. She is currently completing her Master's degree in Italian Studies at the same university in Emilia. She has been collaborating with ISTUD since April 2021 as coordinator of the journal "Cronache di Sanità e Medicina Narrativa".

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