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The Concept of Community Nursing

The concept of community nursing covers many types of healthcare. A more familiar term might be public health nursing. Community nursing may take place in a store that has been converted into a clinic. In such a setting, it is easy for people to walk in and discuss their health concerns with a nurse. It might be a public meeting held in a municipal building for smokers who want to quit but need to learn more. Community nursing might be part of a hospital system, but it does not typically take place in a hospital. This type of nursing happens where people live. An online RN to BSN program can help train people for this field.

The Origin of Community Nursing

Public health or community nursing began at the same time as many scientific advances — the early 1900s. Science made medicine more effective and led to better healthcare.

The need for more effective healthcare increased as cities grew more crowded. Reformers saw squalid and unsafe conditions and knew the current system needed to change. Poor sanitation enabled diseases to spread quickly. Clean water was hard to find due to inadequate water systems. Garbage rotted in the street, and there was very little care available for poor people.

The poor were often blamed for their own living conditions. They were also blamed for their own health problems, but many reform-minded nurses saw that they could put new models in place, including better infrastructure and educational programs. They also saw that political and social change were necessary to improve neighborhoods. Public health nurses set up where they were needed, which made a big impact on the people they served.

Throughout the 20th century, nurses created programs to help people. Maternal and child health clinics are an example of commonly seen community nursing efforts. These basic services help improve the lives of families and individuals. For those committed to political activism, a career in community nursing can be rewarding.

Community Nursing Today

People who want to work as community nurses should get specialized training. An online RN to BSN program can provide the required education. Classes should be evidence-based and include leadership and management skills training. Nurses in a community program are a trusted resource for the people they serve. The nurse is not an outsider and understands the specific needs of the people in the neighborhood. When people trust and accept a nurse, their health improves. They learn to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.

According to Lisa Campbell and Tessa Walker Linderman, writing for American Nurse, “Public health nurses are on the front lines of health care and prevention” The authors go on to cite two recent public health emergencies in the U.S.: measles and Ebola. Community nurses provided education. They were also in a good position to spot outbreaks or potential outbreaks of disease.

Opportunities in Community Nursing

A community nurse has the opportunity to make serious improvements in the health of the residents near them. For example, a nurse might start and run a specialized health program. One such nurse in Texas began a program to help people stop using tobacco. The nurse identified stakeholders, such as religious leaders and educators, and by bringing people together, she was able to create a plan to reduce tobacco use. It worked, and tobacco use went from 25 percent to 22 percent in three years.

Technology is also making a difference in community nursing. An online RN to BSN program can provide the education required to create a mapping program, which shows healthcare professionals specific problem areas. Modern mapping programs use Geographic Information Systems (GIS). A GIS map can help healthcare professionals understand where substance abuse, violence, or other public health problems may be clustered.

This is an example of the kind of public program community nurses can create with the training they receive in an online RN to BSN program. Today, public health nursing is “population focused and requires unique knowledge, competencies and skills“.

Unique Skills and Collaborations

A community nurse is a professional directly involved with the population he or she serves. A community nurse does not usually work for an individual doctor or within an individual practice. This type of nurse is seen as a healthcare worker who is very much a part of the community and a trusted resource.

Community nursing or public health nursing began in this country in the early 20th century. There was a need to care for poor and underserved people that became too great a problem for society to ignore. Nurses became political activists as well as providers of care.

A well-rounded program like Purdue Northwest’s online RN to BSN can provide nurses with the skills and education they need for a community focus. Nurses can then choose the setting that they find most interesting or rewarding. Community nurses are trusted by the people they serve. They have opportunities to design unique preventive and wellness programs.

Learn more about the Purdue Northwest online RN to BSN program.


American Nurses Association: Public Health Nurses Strive to Keep Community Safe, Healthy

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: Evolving Public Health Nursing Roles: Focus on Community Participatory Health Promotion and Prevention

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