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What Is the Nurse’s Role in Health Promotion?

Nurses play a dynamic and crucial role in healthcare. A nurse is usually the first person a patient interacts with. Nurses are responsible for assessing patients’ needs and diagnosing illnesses. As such, nurses are an integral part of the comprehensive standards of care and health promotion. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health promotion as “the process of enabling people to increase control over the determinants of health and thereby improving their health.” Before we can examine the role of nurses in health promotion, we must first assess the guiding principles of health promotion.

The three main tenets of health promotion are advocate, enable and mediate. Nurses advocate on behalf of their patients and the community at large by supporting causes that help optimize health, such as nonprofit organizations and educational campaigns. Nurses enable or empower their patients by striving for equal access to healthcare services. Race, gender and ethnicity are important factors to consider. Finally, to promote health for all citizens, nurses play the role of mediator between healthcare providers, governments, businesses and the media. A collaboration between various institutions is the only way to ensure the health of a population.

A comprehensive health education — the use of different learning approaches to help improve health through knowledge and experience — is essential to effective health promotion. Thus, health promotion underpins a nurse’s role within a healthcare setting. Nurses are able to improve their capacity for promoting health in an online RN to BSN program that incorporates health promotion strategies into the curriculum and learning environment.

Responsibilities of Nurses

In 2000, the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses released an official statement on approaches to general health and wellness. These approaches encompass the tenets of health promotion as techniques to promote and facilitate overall health and well-being. They are now considered standard practices in the field of nursing. These guidelines also highlight responsibilities of nurses in health promotion. First, nurses assess individual health needs and provide patients with information needed to promote health and self-care. Nurses possess the skills and competencies to tackle the burden of health determinants. Health determinants comprise various environmental and behavioral factors that affect health and well-being. Subsequently, nurses must have the skills to proactively confront these challenges within an individual and societal context.

Nurses need to assess effective health promotion activities. In order to assess these activities, nurses should examine the planning and implementation process. As such, nurses strive to gain and apply new knowledge as a way of using components of health education to address health determinants. Finally, nurses who are actively involved in lobbying for societal and structural change at the individual, community and policy level, are able to promote health for diverse groups and larger segments of the population.

Nurses’ Role in Health Promotion

Strategies for health promotion should strive to reduce negative health outcomes associated with health determinants by increasing knowledge through health education. Therefore, a nurse’s role in health promotion includes various responsibilities related to advocating, enabling and mediating activities to reduce poor health outcomes. Online RN to BSN programs should be proactive in preparing nurses to meet this increased demand for health promotion by incorporating courses and practical experiences related to health promotion and education, theories to enhance health outcomes among diverse segments of the population, and the development of leadership skills, into their curricula. Online RN to BSN programs should also facilitate and support critical thinking to remove barriers to health and well-being at all levels of patient interaction.

Methods of standard practice in nursing now require nurses to actively engage in health promotion strategies to maximize optimal health outcomes. Nurses should be able to apply evidence-based concepts from research to implement effective strategies that promote optional health. Additionally, they should be proficient in the skills and competencies needed to influence health-related policy and empower communities to take action toward improving health. Online RN to BSN programs that cultivate critical thinking skills and leadership and incorporate the tenets of health promotion into their curricula are better able to prepare nurses for the increasingly important role of health promotion to improve the health and well-being of the population at large.

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


Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses: General Health and Wellness (Position Statement)

Oxford Academic: Health Promotion International: Nurses’ Role in Health Promotion Practice: An Integrative Review

Pender, N.J., Murdaugh, C.L., & Parsons, M.A. (2015). Health promotion in nursing practice. Harlow, Essex: Pearson.

World Health Organization (WHO): Health Topics: Health Promotion

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