The role of the community or public health nurse differs significantly from that of their more widespread counterparts. As the name of the profession implies, instead of caring for individual patients, they concern themselves with communities or the public at large. Per McEwen and Nies (2018), the community or public health nurse concentrates on specific subsections of the community and works on health promotion and disease prevention in it. Depending on the individual and their goal, the target populace could comprise one or two groups or the entire population, subdivided into separate identity groups based on relevant shared traits. The nurse then works with all of them at once, seeking to improve their overall well-being. As such, the methods that are employed are also different than those used in medical facilities due to the number and diversity of patients.
Community and public health nurses work on both an individual level and that of the overall community. If necessary, they will assess individuals and families and refer them to care that is appropriate for their issues. However, a significant part of the role, according to McEwen and Nies (2018), is the evaluation of the needs of the community as a whole and the development of interventions that match its values and improve its situation. They can accomplish this goal by working with the group and persuading them to make changes or by involving other institutions. Advocacy is often a large part of the job, as many intervention programs require funding from the government or other interest groups. As such, public health nurses require substantial communication and organization skills, which also enable them to perform a variety of other duties.
In my community, a variety of programs and treatments is available to groups that are at risk already, in large part due to the efforts of local public health nurses. With that said, many of these institutions lack publicity and promotion, leading to people not knowing where to go once problems manifest. As such, public health nurses monitor the community and supply information regarding the available healthcare programs and services. They are able to work directly with people, assess their problems, and use their knowledge to determine what help is necessary and where it can be best provided. In doing so, they improve access to care and ensure that the health of the community as a whole improves. With that said, their advocacy efforts for additional programs and support continue, as well.
Another essential part of the tasks which local public health nurses commonly perform involves education for at-risk populations. Many conditions that frequently manifest among vulnerable groups can be prevented through behavioral methods, such as a reduction in alcohol consumption. By holding personalized sessions with small groups of people, nurses can explain the reasoning behind the preventative measures comprehensively and answer any questions that people may have. Additionally, public health nurses can perform direct health care services for people who need them. In many situations, the patient’s condition is not sufficiently severe to warrant a stay at a medical facility, and the nurse’s aid is sufficient to maintain their health. With that said, they are thorough in their examinations and will send the patient to a properly-equipped facility if they see signs of a problem. Local nurses are aware of their limitations in direct patient care as well as the dangers of ignoring hidden issues and exercise due diligence in that regard to best help the communities with which they work.
McEwen, M., & Nies, M. A. (2018). Community/public health nursing: Promoting the health of populations (7th ed.). Elsevier Health Sciences.