The Nurse’s Role in Strengthening Community Health


Community health nursing enhances populations

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

Community health nursing offers the opportunity to improve the health of a population and enhance patient outcomes. 

“In communities, nurses can be a focal point in being able to help [people] navigate the system,” said Bonnie Fuller, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, at the Purdue University Global School of Nursing based in West Lafayette, Indiana. 

Phyllis Meadows, BSN, MSN, PhD, RN, senior fellow-health at the Kresge Foundation in Troy, Michigan, reported that all nurses can improve health outcomes.

“The nature of how nurses are prepared, they are able to [improve outcomes] in whatever setting they are in, whether they are in the community or the hospital,” Meadows said. 

Additionally, Meadows continued, nurses live in communities and neighborhoods and are perceived to be a credible resource. 

Seeking a permanent nursing job with flexibility? The AMN Flex Team allows nurses to care for a community within one health system.

What is community health nursing?

Community health nursing refers to health services, preventive care, advocacy and health education delivered by nurses in a specific population. They may serve as navigators, helping underserved populations find free and low-cost care. 

Public health nursing is a form of community health nursing, and the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the importance of public health nursing, as nurses administer vaccines and perform COVID-19 testing. 

“Nurses are skilled at administering injections,” Meadows said. “They are going to play a central role in the pandemic,” including education about the vaccine. 

“To get to where we need to be, it will require nurses in the community,” Meadows added.

President Biden’s “National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness” outlines plans for the U.S. Public Health Job Corps, which would contact trace, assist with vaccination outreach, administer coronavirus vaccines, and provide other services to people affected by the pandemic. The corps would “provide support for community health workers.”

Meadows reported that research has shown when a registered nurse oversees lay community health workers, outcomes are better than without RN supervision. 

Community health nurses can work in a variety of settings, such as publish health departments, homeless shelters, faith communities, health clinics or schools. They often practice in low-income settings, where access to healthcare presents challenges to achieving optimal health. They consider each person’s cultural beliefs when developing a plan of care.

How do community health nurses influence patient outcomes?

Nurses help people achieve health and wellness, and the best place to do that is in the community, in their own environment, Fuller explained. 

Nursing’s influence on patient outcomes revolves around education and preventive care. Community health nurses promote a healthy lifestyle and explain about different diseases and how to manage them. With a greater understanding of their health conditions, people can make informed decisions about diet, exercise and other aspects of maintaining wellness. 

 Community health nursing can influence patient outcomes across generations, including newborns. They often conduct well-baby assessments and screenings and educate new parents, as well as older adults cared for in their homes, Meadows said. 

Breaking into community health nursing

Community health nurses must have graduated from a nursing program and be licensed in the state where they are working with people. It helps to have several years of nursing experience before taking one’s skills into a community. As with home healthcare, community health nurses often work on their own in the field.  

Meadows suggested “nurses entering this specialty must highlight not only their clinical skills but also their critical thinking, advocacy and analytical abilities.” Additionally, community health nurses must be flexible and able to adapt to the patients’ needs. 

Nurses might consider working travel nursing assignments in order to gain experience with various patient populations and increase their adaptability to different work environments. 

Now is a great time to explore becoming a community health or public health nurse. But even nurses who practice in acute-care settings can make a difference in patient’s lives by thoroughly educating their patients so they can best take care of themselves after discharge. 

To learn more about community and public health nursing, visit the American Public Health Association has thousands of opportunities for nurses, including permanent, travel nursing and per diem jobs. You can also find permanent AMN Flex Team nursing positions, working with a large health system to provide quality care at multiple facilities. 

FIND NURSING JOBS across the U.S. or APPLY TODAY to connect with a top recruiter.

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