Sep
22

Community Health Education Focus for Nurses

As the population of those eligible to enter the pool for healthcare dramatically increases due to government reform, all healthcare professionals, and nurses in particular, must significantly enhance their effectiveness and efficiency in community health activities. This requires refocusing efforts in our nursing education programs to the bio-psycho-social needs of our communities.

Nurses have always been trained in community/public health, however, it is generally a component of education equal to any of the other areas of focus, i.e. med/surg, psychiatry, pediatrics, etc. Today's healthcare reform necessitates the need to have community health as the cornerstone of nursing education in all specialty clinical areas.

People are living longer and more people of all ages are now entering into the health care system as a result of health reform. Our hospitals, clinics, and physician offices are not sufficient in number to handle the masses needing care. Therefore, the need exists for a higher intensity of services to be provided in the home and community in order to address the myriad medical and social ills of our communities. Our educational programs must provide the student with a more intense training and understanding of these psychological, social, and political systems that affect one's ability to get and stay well. We must begin to, not only assess every chronic medical issue, but address them with the same level of intensity as we would in managing a heart condition.

In community health the physician is the head of the team but entrusts the care of his/her patients to nursing. Nurses can only be effective in becoming a significant benefit to optimum, cost effective, quality care only if nursing education has a paradigm shift from "sick care” in the hospital and other institutions to a philosophy of prevention and wellness in the home and community.

Nursing must come up to speed with technology companies who have developed devices that monitor physical and environmental issues in the home. If the technology companies can read the signs of the times and develop solutions, nursing must pay attention. As a 30+ year master's educated, psycho-social nurse and care management veteran, I know that the last thing nursing professionals wants is for those concerned with the mounting cost of healthcare, to develop ways to monitor and treat patients in the home and community without the benefit of the nursing care and expertise we have promoted for so long. We can control our destiny, and help actualize benefits in healthcare reform for thousands, through forward thinking actions that appropriately address societal needs.

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