Nurses are becoming more visible as educators, advocates, and community resources as the healthcare industry shifts from treating illness to promoting wellness. The Nurse Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP) calls for all nurses to focus on population health, so a comprehensive understanding of community health nursing is a must. Today, nurses everywhere serve in some capacity as community/public health nurses to address the needs of individuals, groups, families and populations.
What Is Community Health Nursing?
Community health nursing focuses on health issues that affect a community as a whole. The term "community" can refer to universities, prisons, workplaces, and urban or rural areas. Whatever their community, nurses serve as advocates and educators about illness and disease prevention, nutrition and wellness, and safe health practices.
What Is the Main Focus of Community Health Nursing?
Health Promotion: The main focus of community health nurses is health promotion. The World Health Organization defines health promotion as "the process of enabling people to increase their control over, and improve their health." It can start informally by educating yourself, family, friends, or neighbors. For example, perhaps your parents need diet recommendations to prevent diabetes or heart disease, while your friend would benefit from information on cancer screenings for melanoma.
Resources and Referrals: Community health nurses are experts on community resources and services. They may coordinate community-wide health efforts in collaboration with various organizations or leaders in the community. For example, a nurse may visit different senior centers, assisted living facilities and geriatric care sites gathering information to improve fall prevention. Another may serve as a parish nurse to plan a men's health day for a church community.
Whom Do Community Nurses Serve?
Community health nurses identify and administer healthcare to those in need, such as the incarcerated, homeless, veterans, elderly, children, or another vulnerable population. Community nurses are there to serve. They combine knowledge of cultural, social and economic factors, and public health principles with nursing skills to care for underserved and disadvantaged populations.
One benefit of community health nursing is the diversity of job opportunities. Below are just a few opportunities for nurses:
· Assisted living facilities
· Veterans affairs facilities
· Correctional facilities
· Public health departments
· School districts
· College campuses
· Faith nursing/Parish nursing
· Health-related government agencies
· Nonprofit organizations
· Research facilities
· Community health centers
· Telehealth nursing (call centers, insurance providers, walk-in clinics)
· Travel nursing
· International travel nursing
Why Is Community Health Important?
The overall goal of community health is to correct poor health practices and promote safe work and home environments, which reduces visits to healthcare facilities and mitigates risk factors. Community health nurses often engage with the community outside of the traditional healthcare setting. This includes but is not limited to:
- Public events (school fairs, women's health fairs, community craft events, etc.)
- Mobile vaccination or screening stations
- Opioid crisis and tobacco cessation response
- Infection control
- Disaster relief
- International humanitarian health efforts
Safety: Community health nurses are critical to the safety of our world. They may have a key role in infection control, newborn wellness, student health or fall prevention. Community health nurses are on the front lines of contagious disease prevention and management. Health problems such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), influenza, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and viral meningitis can quickly spiral out of control and impact the entire community.
Advocacy: Community health nurses are active advocates. They may lobby government officials to set up or improve health facilities to offer free or affordable healthcare to their communities. Often, they advocate for resources, services, basic provisions and education for their community. For example, a nurse may work on a tobacco prevention and cessation initiative or organize a healthy parenting course held at a community center or church.
Community health nurses are well-versed in all phases of the nursing process that are easily adaptable to change within a community:
- Assessment – Understand and Connect
- Planning – Measure and Improve
- Implementation – Prepare and Commit to Transformative Change
- Evaluation – Partner and Transform
So much of the community health nurse's role involves creating strategies to break down barriers to health equity. Often, these nurses interact with people from diverse backgrounds, education levels, languages or ethnic groups to assess various social determinants of health. Key to their success is effective intercultural communication techniques that enable them to partner with the community toward the goal of better overall health.
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