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The Partnership Between Nursing and Public Health

Nursing and public health are both committed to the health and well-being of people, communities and populations. Public health looks to improve and protect the health of entire populations, whereas nurses typically prioritize the treatment of illness and achieving positive health outcomes for individuals.

However, nurses do provide public health interventions that improve the health of populations and communities. Nurses are the largest occupation group in healthcare, and they have close relationships with their patients, making them ideally suited to the promotion and protection of public health. 

Public health and nursing come together in the role of a public health nurse practitioner. There is a strong demand for these nurses where medical expertise is combined with working with communities rather than individual patients. When public health and nursing unite, more can be achieved to improve the population’s health. 

Nurses looking to advance their careers and earn a nurse practitioner salary in Texas may want to explore the Family Nurse Practitioner degree program at Texas Woman’s University.

Nurse practitioners are in great demand within healthcare organizations due to their clinical expertise and ability to improve health outcomes.

Advanced education and certification allow graduates to provide wide-ranging healthcare. They provide family-centered care and consider the patient’s whole situation, including changes in the family and relationships. 

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) work to meet the needs of various populations. FNPs care for patients of all ages and have the ability and expertise to provide direct patient care and improve health outcomes.

They provide a comprehensive range of services, including educating patients on preventative measures. In many states, they work independently to prescribe medications, perform physical examinations, order or perform diagnostic tests, and treat acute and chronic health conditions. In other states, they are required to be supervised by a physician.

FNPs can make a difference when they work with underserved communities and provide much-needed clinical care. Nurses can use their experience to advocate for better healthcare and become involved in legislation and health policy.

Public Health

Public health works to prevent people from getting sick or injured and focuses on entire populations.

Public health improves and protects population health through research regarding preventing injury and disease, promotion of healthy lifestyles, education and responding to, preventing and detecting infectious diseases.

Public health researchers analyze various effects on health, such as personal choice, genetics and the environment. They develop policies and interventions to protect health, including education on the dangers of alcohol and tobacco and vaccination programs.

The American Public Health Association states: “Public health saves money, improves our quality of life, helps children thrive, and reduces human suffering.”

The field of public health includes many academic disciplines, including health policy, environmental health, immunology and nutrition. There are various public health occupations, including scientists, social workers, first responders and health educators. Public health professionals perform wide-ranging work in their quest to improve public health.

Some of their work includes studying environmental toxins and their impacts on health and assessing the air people breathe and the water they drink. They implement vaccination programs for children and adults and investigate outbreaks of disease. Their other work includes undertaking cancer screening programs and analyzing data for health trends. 

Nursing and public health are both concerned with people’s health. Public health has a primary focus on populations. There is an emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention for whole communities to support healthy environments and behaviors.

There are organized specializations, including analytical methods, considerable health problems and setting and population. Biological sciences are central, with a focus on acute threats to population health, such as noncommunicable diseases and epidemics. Research takes place in the field and laboratory. Public and social policy disciplines are integrated into public health education. 

Social determinants of health are often referred to in the public health discipline and refer to the conditions in which people are born or experience throughout life and the external systems and forces affecting conditions every day.

Social determinants may cause social inequities that result in the poor health of certain populations. Social determinants include access to healthcare services, access to education and job opportunities, social support and public safety. 

The American Public Health Association aims to improve population health and achieve equity in health status for all. Health equity can be defined as ensuring everyone can attain their highest level of health.

To achieve health equity, barriers to health must be removed, including discrimination, poverty and a lack of access to quality education. Health inequity refers to the unequal distribution of economic and social resources that impact health.

Inequities can be caused by structural racism or the disenfranchisement of certain marginalized groups, including low-income populations, members of the LGBTQ community, and racial and ethnic minorities. These groups have had more exposure to health risks, such as poor neighborhood conditions, poverty, violence and environmental health hazards. 

Inequities in health often result in disparities in health outcomes between populations. A health disparity is a difference in health that is closely linked with economic, social and environmental disadvantage. Not all differences in health care disparities.

Health differences between the younger and older populations are not due to disparities but because of the age difference. A health difference is seen as a health disparity if it results from unfair and detrimental health and social factors. Health disparities can mean medical costs are higher, including costs related to preventable chronic diseases. 

Nursing

The healthcare industry treats people who are sick and focuses on individual patients. Nurses work to educate patients regarding their health and to implement preventative measures to prevent patients from developing long-term illnesses.

Public health focuses on entire populations, whereas nurses focus on individual patients. However, nurses do reach more people in communities by becoming a trusted source of information and advice. In this way, knowledge about health becomes more widespread.

Nursing has an emphasis on diagnosis and treatment and the care of individual patients. The emphasis is on medical care. Specializations can focus on a specific patient group, etiology, pathophysiology, technical skill or organ system. Research takes place between the laboratory and the bedside. Social sciences are usually an elective part of clinical education. 

Nursing practice uses a comprehensive approach and provides a useful link between caring for individuals and caring for communities and populations. Nurses are taught to consider the complete person and to see patients within their cultural and community situations. Public health initiatives would not be as advanced as they are now without nurses. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses provided immunizations and contributed to the implementation of prevention strategies and the planning of immunization drives. They administered vaccines safely and provided relevant health education to vaccine recipients and their families.

School nurses implemented behavioral and environmental changes to minimize the spread of the virus and helped to develop programs in the community to provide immunization to those at high risk. They are key workers within public health as their nursing knowledge and skills enhance the public health team.

Public Health Nurse Practitioner

Nursing and public health come together in the role of a public health nurse practitioner. These nurses play an essential role in improving population health by delivering care and educating communities. They make positive changes through community-building and policy reform. 

A public health nurse practitioner is a nurse who works to effect positive changes in population health. They work directly with communities to educate people and provide the tools needed to improve health outcomes.

A public health nurse practitioner promotes public wellness. Nurses concentrate on helping underserved individuals and those at risk to access the care needed. Their main objective is to help reduce health risks and prevent disease through education and evidence-based care. 

The responsibilities of public health nurse practitioners include:

  • Educating patients about available support services and helping them access care
  • Evaluating the health of patients and creating treatment plans
  • Emphasizing primary prevention in order to avoid disease or injury before it occurs
  • Developing a relationship with patients and following up to track progress
  • Managing budgets of public health programs
  • Assessing health trends in communities
  • Working with public health officials to help underserved communities gain access to care
  • Monitoring patients for any changes in condition
  • Recording and analyzing aggregate medical data
  • Referring patients to other providers as needed

The objective of public health nursing is to reduce health disparities by focusing on the social, physical and environmental determinants of health.

These conditions influence individual and group differences in health status and include healthcare access, educational level, food security, economic stability, the built environment and social issues such as racism. Public health nurse practitioners work for social justice and promote change through community building, policy reform and interventions. 

Public health nurse practitioners are focused on improving community healthcare and providing medical services to populations at risk. There are various settings where these nurses work, such as government organizations, like state or county health departments, developing policies and finding new ways to improve population health.

Nonprofit organizations, like the Red Cross, employ public health nurse practitioners to support communities and educate staff on improving community health. These nurses can also work in schools, communities or outpatient clinics. 

Public health nurse practitioners demonstrated the difference they can make during the COVID-19 pandemic. They played a crucial role in disease prevention and mitigating health crises. Public health nurse practitioners deliver effective, safe and non-discriminatory primary care to the communities they serve. 

Public health nurse practitioners provide public health interventions, such as health education, disaster management, emergency preparedness, well-baby care, screening and immunization clinics.

Improving the health of communities and populations requires a commitment from both the nursing profession and the field of public health science. Public health nurse practitioners are key to meeting public health goals.

Public Health and Nursing

Public health is regarded as essential content in undergraduate nursing programs in the United States. There are specialty programs in public health nursing at the master’s degree and doctoral degree levels.

Nurses develop skills in public health science so that they have the knowledge required to help promote population health. Public health nurse practitioners are important members of the healthcare team when public health demands are addressed. Public or community nurses fulfill the public health objective when promoting the population’s health. 

Studies have found that nurses fill multiple roles when promoting population health. Nursing care has a positive impact on the health of communities and takes place across many levels of care, including home visits, providing care in schools, family health nursing and district nursing.

Nurses possess a distinctive set of skills that can be used as needed to implement public health interventions. They are knowledgeable about wellness and disease because of their experience and education, and they understand the clinical reasons for public health interventions. 

Most nurses are committed to protecting and promoting the health of individuals. They engage in informal health promotion through various techniques when working with a patient, and this continues throughout the day. This includes health education to prevent infections from spreading.

Promoting safety, even when working in an acute setting, can be seen as contributing to public health. If there is an outbreak of disease, nurses play an important role throughout the outbreak, including identifying cases, surveillance and data analysis. 

Most hospitals have a nurse running their infectious disease program. This nurse works in partnership with all the nurses in the hospital and with public health representatives to address infections acquired in the hospital and infections acquired in the community.

If there is a pandemic or epidemic, then public health departments and healthcare organizations ask nurses to develop programs to protect people through education and vaccination drives. At other times, public health nurse practitioners work with populations at risk who require interventions to address high-risk conditions, whether it is poor mental health or chronic illness.

Nursing has had a long-term role in public health, and there are a significant number of public health nurse practitioners. These nurses draw on their nursing skills but also their understanding and knowledge of public health.

The public health nurse practitioners of the future will utilize evidence-based interventions. There will be a demand for nurses with the skills to plan and provide public health services in various settings and to carry out research and program evaluations. 

Historically, there has been a definite relationship between public health and nursing, which continues today. Nurses are the largest occupational group within the professional healthcare workforce. Without nurses, many of the public health interventions would not be possible.

Nurses specializing in public health are leaders in the nursing profession who address the essential functions of assessment, public health, assurance and policy development.

Altogether, the nursing care provided to communities, individuals and families by nurses and public health nurse practitioners is a considerable contribution to the health of the communities they work in. Both the nursing profession and the field of public health can support the application of public health practices by nurses across all settings.

Conclusion

Nursing and public health are both committed to population health and well-being. Public health is concerned with the health of populations, whereas typically, nurses have worked on the treatment and health outcomes of individuals.

However, nurses are involved in health promotion and preventative measures in communities and, as individuals trusted by the local population, can have an impact on people’s health. Nurses use a holistic approach, which can make the healthcare they deliver suited to underserved patients.

Nurses are the largest group of workers in the healthcare profession, and this makes them ideal for improving public health. The public health nurse practitioner brings together public health and nursing. These nurses are in demand due to their medical expertise and community work. 

They make a difference by building community relationships and advocating for policy reform.

Nurses study public health as undergraduates and postgraduates and have long been involved in implementing public health initiatives. When public health and nursing come together, much more can be achieved to improve the population’s health. 

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