The prevalence of communicable diseases and a greater focus on wellness can help explain the ever-increasing demand for nurses to share their skills with their communities. Nurses can apply what they know to serve a community — whether for an individual, family, group, county or country. They aid in monitoring individual or group health statuses, identifying trends and providing data, information and education to prevent the spread of infection. Overall, they are responsible for promoting, protecting and preserving the world’s health, one community at a time.
What Is Community Health Nursing?
The title “community health nursing” refers to the work of a nursing professional who cares for a specific community. The terms “community health nurse” and “public health nurse” may seem interchangeable, as both focus on nursing practice in communities or populations. Technically, community health nursing is under the larger umbrella of public health nursing.
Depending on the role, public health nurses may concentrate more on health promotion and disease prevention, while community health nurses focus on both wellness and illness. Public health nurses typically assess and educate the overall population, while community health nurses assess their particular community. Basically, they both provide essential health services.
What Are 3 Common Characteristics of Community Health Nurses?
Regardless of position or role, three main aspects inform the work of community health nurses:
- Autonomy. Community health nurses work independently and seek to manage resources effectively. The ability to adapt to different situations is important for success in this role. The work requires continuous assessment of current and potential health problems to develop health plans for people from diverse backgrounds, educational preparations, language upbringings and cultural beliefs.
- Communication. Typically, nurses communicate with healthcare team members about a patient’s condition, diagnosis, treatment, side effects and progress toward goals. In community health, nurses expand this communication to include professionals outside the healthcare sector to help secure resources, funds, grants or influence policy. They educate their clients, community stakeholders and the public on issues that are important to the community they serve.
- Advocacy. Not only is it difficult to navigate our increasingly complex and fragmented healthcare system, but many people may not have access to care or not feel like they have clear information to make healthcare decisions. Community health nurses often fill this gap by advocating for their clients. They become the voice of their community.
Whom Do Community Health Nurses Serve?
With the definition of “community” depending on many factors, nurses may serve a variety of populations. Community can refer to prisons, schools, businesses, urban or rural areas and even countries. Many governments, mainly county and state, have positions to improve access to care. Large healthcare organizations realize that employing a community nurse may reduce their overall costs by keeping the public healthier and providing earlier intervention with chronic illnesses.
Community health nurses are in high demand, specifically in medically underserved and low-income communities. Recently, opportunities are expanding to place community nurses in non-traditional settings such as: businesses, college campuses, community health centers, correctional facilities, churches or faith-based areas, home health nursing, Indian reservations, public health departments and telehealth settings.
Why Is Community Health Nursing Important?
Nurses know that symptoms indicate a deeper problem. This includes a mother’s anxiety over how to afford immunization or a woman’s high blood pressure from the stress of coping with her husband’s military deployment. Regardless of the particular community, nurses work to:
- Mobilize resources. Community health nurses identify available resources and know how to access them. They work closely with officials, community leaders, agencies, groups, healthcare providers, schools and the general public to obtain adequate resources.
- Promote wellness. Services often focus on optimum wellness and disease prevention. This may include immunizations for vaccine-preventable diseases, comprehensive case management, counseling or instruction on healthy lifestyles.
- Address health problems. The role of a community health nurse often involves investigating health problems and safety issues for developing a plan of action to address issues impacting community members.
Community health nursing involves a holistic approach to care, often focusing on people who do not have access to healthcare due to insurance, financial obstacles, transportation, reliance on caregivers or simply low health literacy. Nurses in these roles use their strong clinical and critical thinking skills. They combine their love of nursing with the love for their community and focus on entire health populations instead of just one person at a time.
A combination of passion, perseverance and commitment to others makes community nurses vital members of any healthcare system.
Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University’s online RN to BSN program.