Public health nursing refers to a specialized practice in nursing that utilizes interpersonal, organizational, analytical, and technical skills to deal with health challenges that affect society. Nurses liaise with other healthcare staff to offer extensive medical services to families and other groups (Allender, Rector, & Warner, 2014). On the other hand, community health nursing refers to a field of specialized practice in nursing that focuses on the well-being of the entire population (Allender et al., 2014). In other words, community health nurses offer services to individuals, groups, and families with the objective of promoting the universal well-being of the public.
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Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Levels of Prevention
Prevention comprises an array of interventions meant to minimize risks to health. There are three levels of prevention, which are primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary prevention focuses on addressing injury or ailment before it arises. Nurses achieve this by ensuring that vulnerable individuals are not exposed to dangers that may cause damage or illness. They also change risky or unhealthy behaviors that can cause injury or disease. According to Kulbok, Thatcher, Park, and Meszaros (2012) primary prevention entails enactment and implementation of policies that prohibit the use of dangerous products that can cause diseases or harm. It also involves educating the public on how to live a healthy life. Inoculation against communicable diseases is an example of primary prevention.
Secondary prevention seeks to minimize the effects of an existing injury or disease. It is realized through prompt diagnosis and management of injuries or ailments to prevent them from getting worse (Kulbok et al., 2012). It also entails encouraging individuals to take care of their health to prevent a recurrence. Medical personnel executes programs meant to assist the affected individuals to regain their health and lead a healthy life. Habitual screening tests and examinations to detect illness at an early phase is an excellent example of secondary prevention. Other examples include regular physical exercise and administration of aspirins in small quantities to mitigate stroke and heart attack.
Tertiary prevention seeks to lessen the effects of an existing injury or ailment, which has long-term impacts. It is achieved by assisting patients to cope with lasting, often elaborate on health challenges like permanent disability and chronic diseases (Kulbok et al., 2012).
The objective of the health care workers is to ensure that individuals lead a quality life and perform duties without difficulties despite their health condition. Kulbok et al. (2012) identify stroke and cardiac therapy programs as examples of tertiary prevention mechanisms. Other examples include support groups, which enable patients to exchange ideas on how to cope with their health conditions and career rehabilitation programs.
Roles of Nurses in Community and Public Health Nursing
Public health nurses combine community contribution and information about a population with medical knowledge of the sickness and well-being experiences of persons and families within the public. Allender et al. (2014) aver that the nurses “articulate and translate the health and illness experiences of diverse, often vulnerable individuals and families in the population to health planners and policymakers” (p. 17). They also help members of the public to voice their grievances and desires.
Public health nurses have experience in different intervention mechanisms that can work on individuals, families, and the entire population. Thus, they disseminate health information to population groups and individuals via advocacy and targeted programs and interventions. According to Maurer and Smith (2013), public health nurses play critical health functions, which include an appraisal, assurance, and policy formulation.
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One of the primary roles of a community health nurse is disease prevention. The nurses come up with short- and long-term strategies for disease prevention to guarantee public health (Maurer & Smith, 2013). Moreover, they work with patients to devise self-management techniques for individuals with chronic conditions like diabetes. Maurer and Smith (2013) claim that community health nurses work as educators. They enlighten communities, families, and individuals on how to lead a healthy life. They teach students sex education to protect them from contracting diseases like HIV/AIDS. The nurses serve as advocates.
They call on the federal, local, and state governments to provide quality healthcare services to all people and minimize health disparities (Maurer & Smith, 2013). They also assist low-income families in enrolling in social services programs such as those that offer nutritional and healthcare aids to children and breastfeeding mothers. Community health nurses conduct research, which goes a long way towards facilitating the formulation of policies that can help to improve service delivery in the health sector.
Issues in Community and Public Health Nursing
Community and public health nurses endeavor to provide quality health care to all people. However, numerous challenges hinder their ability to meet the demands of all patients. Both community and public health nurses face the problem of unequal distribution of health resources (Maurer & Smith, 2013).
It hinders their ability to provide quality health care to individuals, families, and population groups. Maurer and Smith (2013) posit that public health nurses face challenges attributed to the disjointed health care delivery system. It becomes difficult for nurses to provide quality services to patients from ethnic minorities and those living in remote areas. At times, both public and community health nurses face a dilemma in resource distribution. They are unable to determine the groups of patients to benefit from low-cost or free immunizations.
Allender, J., Rector, C., & Warner, K. (2014). Community & public health nursing: Promoting the public’s health. New York, NY: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Kulbok, P., Thatcher, E., Park, E., & Meszaros, P. (2012). Evolving public health nursing roles: Focus on community participatory health promotion and prevention. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 17(2), 1-14.
Maurer, F., & Smith, C. (2013). Community/public health nursing practices: Health for families and populations. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Inc.