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Public Health Nursing

Public Health Nursing

Jennifer Fink | NursingLink

Are you concerned about the health of your community? Aware of the impact of income, location, opportunity and mobility on health? Consider a career in public health nursing.

Public health nursing is one of the oldest nursing specialties in the United States. Lillian Wald established the first public health nursing agency in New York City in 1893. According to Wald, “Our basic idea was that the nurse’s peculiar introduction to the patient and her organic relationship with the neighborhood should constitute the starting point for a universal service to the region… We planned to utilize, as well as to be implemented by all agencies and groups of whatever creed which were working for social betterment, private as well as municipal. Our scheme was to be motivated by a vital sense of the interrelation of all these forces…”

Wald’s description remains an apt characterization of public health nursing. Public health nurses consider health and well-being in the context of community. The health issues and concerns faced by brand-new immigrants to the United States, for instance, are different than those of the residents of Native American reservations. Residents of rural communities deal with different health threats (exposure to pesticides, for instance) than residents of the inner city (where violence and lack of fresh food may be greater issues).

The Nitty-Gritty Details

Some public health nurses work directly with individual clients and families. They may visit clients in clients’ homes or in schools or community health centers. Other public health nurse plan and implement health education and community intervention programs with other community agencies to improve the health and well-being of the neighborhood. Public health nurses, for instance, may be an integral part of a community’s efforts to decrease infant mortality.

Keith, a public health nurse who blogs at Digital Doorway, follows local TB patients to ensure that they’re taking their medication as prescribed. He also develops emergency preparedness plans for his community, holds monthly immunization clinics and track infectious disease outbreaks. He provides general health resources and referrals as requested by members of the community as well.

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