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What Is a Community Health Nurse?

Community health nurses help assess the needs of the community and coordinate care

Community health nurses serve the public in their own environments to promote wellness and improve healthcare. They are educators and advocates. By enrolling in an online RN to BSN degree program, you can be on your way to a fulfilling career as a nurse who assists a diverse group of patients.

What Is Community Health?

The overall health in some communities may be compromised due to infectious diseases, environmental hazards, violence, poverty, accidents and injuries. Community health seeks to address the needs of specific groups of people within cities, towns or rural areas who may be predisposed to chronic health conditions or communicable diseases but lack insurance or other resources to seek healthcare.

What Is a Community Health Nurse?

A community health nurse or public health nurse identifies people in need and reaches out to them. Whether they are helping young pregnant women, the elderly or victims of crime, community health nurses spearhead efforts to aid vulnerable groups of people. They may also apply their medical expertise to specialize in a variety of fields:

  • Case management
  • Clinical practice
  • Corporate or school nursing
  • Home care
  • Pharmaceutical sales

As of 2002, the role of community health nurses expanded to include their participation as first responders. The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 calls for community health nurses to contain, manage and administer immediate care in case of catastrophic events like a biochemical attack or natural disaster.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Community Health Nurse?

A community health nurse focuses not only on helping individuals but also on increasing positive outcomes for an entire group. For community health nurses to make a difference, they must understand the needs of a society’s inhabitants. They may do this by following a systematic process, which includes the following:

  • Assessing the needs of the community
  • Exhibiting awareness and sensitivity to a community’s cultural, religious, political and socioeconomic makeup
  • Pinpointing available resources
  • Coordinating healthcare
  • Applying current scientific research to healthcare

Why Is the Job of a Community Health Nurse Important?

At the center of the seminal study, The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity by the National Academy of Medicine is the imperative that the nursing profession is best positioned to improve equity in and access to healthcare. Community health nurses use their nursing skills to provide care and guidance to patients, especially those with limited resources or access. They provide assistance to pregnant women, the elderly, homeless or disabled by directing them to social services.

They may carry out preventive patient care in communities by administering vaccinations and health exams. They may also distribute birth control and information about proper nutrition. And they educate communities about ways to reduce the likelihood of contracting and spreading these types of diseases:

  • Flu
  • Hepatitis
  • Measles
  • MRSA
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Tuberculosis

Where Do Community Health Nurses Work?

While high-risk populations are their main focus, community health nurses can practice in a variety of healthcare or community settings. They are employed by hospitals, clinics and nursing homes as well as the following:

  • Businesses
  • Community health centers
  • Correctional facilities
  • County and state departments of health
  • Home health agencies
  • Public health departments
  • Religious institutions
  • Schools or occupational health programs

In addition, community health nurses may travel to serve populations in remote locations. They may work alone or as part of a multidisciplinary team.

This specialty is so vital to healthy communities that a number of nursing organizations have been created to support community health nurses with education, research and practice, such as the Association of Community Health Nursing Educators (ACHNE), the Association of Public Health Nurses (APHN), the American Public Health Association (APHA): Public Health Nursing Section and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE). The American Nurses Association (ANA) is also a wealth of resources for those interested in pursuing community health roles.

Community health nurses work toward providing successful outcomes for critical situations. In performing their duties, they serve as agents of healthful changes in communities. Because of their interaction with underserved populations, community health nurses can advocate for better services and inform policy makers about needed reforms in healthcare.

If you are interested in becoming a community health nurse, you must first complete a BSN degree program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse (RN). An online BSN program is a convenient and affordable way to prepare for this rewarding career.

Learn about the Arkansas State University online RN to BSN program.


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