Community health nurses operate in a variety of environments ranging from patients’ homes to public clinics. The key goal of community nurses is helping patients access the highest-quality care not only through supervising their treatment but also through educating and advising them on the appropriate measures of health. Since community health nurses have different responsibilities and work spheres, comparing and contrasting their roles in various practice settings will aid in a better understanding of their function and capacity. School and the family practice settings were chosen for comparison.
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Family Practice Setting
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are registered nurses that have a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, complete appropriate training on an advanced level, and receive all necessary certification from relevant agencies (e.g., the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners). It is also common for registered nurses to transition into family nurse practitioners through expanding their scope of operations (Poronsky, 2013). FNPs usually provide continuous and all-encompassing care through health education, management of disease, and preventative health care. The chosen population of FNPs are families to whom they can provide the following services:
- Manage patients’ chronic health conditions (e.g., diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune diseases);
- Provide continuous health care to children and infants from the youngest age;
- Ensure the effective health maintenance of pregnant women and those planning to become mothers;
- Treat minor injuries and acute illnesses.
Overall, FNPs have a broad spectrum of responsibilities and deal with a large target demographic of patients. FNPs can work both with geriatric patients and infants, which requires a unique set of versatile skills.
School Practice Setting
In contrast to FNPs, who provide their services to a wide demographic of patients, school nurses have the responsibility of offering comprehensive services to children and adolescents. In order to gain the qualification of a school nurse, a candidate with a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing should attain the licensure of a registered nurse from the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (Holmes et al., 2016). It is important to mention that apart from providing health care services to their patients, school nurses are responsible for promoting healthy school environments and educating youth on effective health maintenance practices. School nurses usually make sure that students are emotionally and physically safe and, if needed, make referrals to relevant health providers. It is also expected that school nurses integrate their leadership for supporting health programs and policies designed to improve children’s health. The following is the list of services that school nurses provide to their patients on a regular basis:
- Assess patients’ complaints about their health and care for students that have specific health care needs;
- Establish a reliable system to help in the management of urgent situations and school emergencies;
- Identify students who have specific health care needs related to their chronic conditions that influence academic achievement;
- Conduct regular health screenings, verify students’ immunization, and report on the occurrence of infectious conditions.
School Nurses vs. Family Nurses
The assessment of school and family nurses’ responsibilities shows that both spheres of nursing practice require unique skills and the ability to deal with a diverse target demographic of patients. In contrast to school nurses, family nurses deal with a broader range of patients, including toddlers, pregnant women, the elderly, and so on. School nurses have a narrower target of patients; however, it does not mean that they have fewer responsibilities. Family nurses should be prepared to be versatile in their practice and respond to arising healthcare challenges such as shortages in registered nurse practitioners and work in clinical settings. School nurses, on the other hand, have a specific focus on students attending educational facilities and thus only respond to challenges that arise in those settings.
It is possible that family nurses and school nurses collaborate with each other when it comes to dealing with specific patient cases. For example, if a patient in middle school is diagnosed with a condition that may affect his or her academic performance, the family nurse that provides continuous care to that patient will communicate specific healthcare requirements that a school nurse must follow. Such collaboration ensures that the patient’s mental and physical health is maintained in different environments.
Overall, the responsibilities of family and school nurses are similar in the sense that they act as educators and advocates for the maintenance of patients’ physical and mental well-being. Despite the fact that both health care settings require professionals to be versatile in their approaches to care, family nurses can be found in diverse settings ranging from hospitals to patients’ homes (American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 2015). School nurses’ work is heavily based on understanding how to interact with younger patients and making sure that they get the value of health maintenance. Given the wide variety of skills that both professions require fulfilling their responsibilities, it is possible that a family nurse can substitute for a school nurse and vice versa.
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American Association of Nurse Practitioners. (2015). Scope of practice for nurse practitioners. Web.
Holmes, B., Sheetz, A., Allison, M., Ancora, R., Attisha, E., Beers, N., … Young, T. (2016). Role of the school nurse in providing school health services. Pediatrics, 137(6), 1-8.
Poronsky, C. (2013). Exploring the transition from registered nurse to family nurse practitioner. Journal or Professional Nursing, 29(6), 350-358.