What Does A Public Health Nurse Do?
Nurses are often seen in hospitals and nursing homes giving care to one patient at a time. There are nurses who are responsible for providing care for people living in an entire community. They are called public health nurses and they do more than just give routine care to residents. Their role enables them to identify trends in diseases and challenges in healthcare and articulate these to health authorities and legislators so that policies may be crafted to address these issues. They also become the voice of residents when there are problems affecting their health which need to be brought to the concern of health authorities. As advocates, they often bring to the fore the need for underserved communities to get better access to healthcare services.
Public health nurses need to build relationships with members of the community in order to get their cooperation on the health programs that they want to implement there. For example, their campaign to encourage residents to prevent the spread of infection and disease through proper hand washing is going to be rendered inutile unless the people actually practice it. They also need to have good rapport with the community leaders and members to develop health-related policies and activities that would promote and maintain good health among the residents.
Disease prevention is a focus of public health nursing. Public health nurses administer immunizations to children and provide preventive screening services. In rural and underserved areas where medical doctors are rarely present, public health nurses also provide pregnant women with prenatal care. They also teach them how to care for their babies as soon as they are born so that they don’t get sick. They also cater to the elderly and teach them ways to stay healthy and safe as they go about their daily activities. Through strategies that don’t offend the sensibilities of the population but foster cooperation, public health nurses support lifestyles that are ideal for the promotion of good health and encourage them to change certain practices that don’t.
Public health nurses don’t just wait for residents to visit them in their health center. They go to schools, senior centers and various groups in the community to enlighten people about disease prevention, the importance of a well-balanced diet and ways to detect diseases in its early stages so that they are still treatable. They also teach family members how to care for their sick or disabled loved ones. When a particular disease outbreak threatens the members of the community, they intensify their efforts in informing the public about the steps they need to take to protect themselves, putting their focus on vulnerable populations like the children and the elderly. They also introduce the healthcare services and programs that they offer so that the residents will be able to utilize these services.
Public health nurses actively look at the health trends and study the risk factors posed by the population groups under their care in order to prioritize the interventions that need to be carried out. Addressing a community’s most pressing needs first is important given the budgetary considerations of local governments. Since they are constantly updated on these matters, the input of public health nurses is also sought after by interdisciplinary groups that work on identifying and responding to public health threats.
Public health nurses can work in one community individually or as part of a group. No matter what their work arrangements are, public health nurses are trained to perform their functions, implement interventions and use various strategies that address the needs of each individual, family, group or the entire population. They also assess the efficacy of implemented healthcare programs in order to determine what else needs to be done to improve the delivery of healthcare services to these populations. They draw their conclusions about these programs because keeping records and statistics is also part and parcel of their job.
They also train future nurses for the task of caring for large populations. Nursing students have to get clinical experience to pass the course and they can be assigned in various communities. It is the task of public health nurses to introduce them to the nature of public health nursing and lead them in the activities that need to be done for the residents of the community.