At our last state student nursing association meeting a community health nurse came and spoke as one of a panel of nurses discussing their professions. She had only a few minutes to tell us about her job. I left the meeting feeling unsure of what is involved in community health nursing. Can someone give me overview of what this encompasses and advice for a new grad who may be interested in this field.
I can tell you what my experience was...
I worked for a community health network. This organization served the uninsured, under-insured, and the migrant hispanic agricultural worker communities. We operated 6 health centers in 5 counties in Michigan.
The health centers were fully staffed with MDs, nurses (RN/LPN mix), MAs, and "techs" that we trained. All of them had dental service attached with DDSs and hygenists. Most were associated with WIC and therefore also had dieticians and social workers.
Dependent upon the location we also had things like a Psychologist with regular office hours in the clinic. Two of the clinics had very busy obstetric practices. All clinics had board certified pediatricians and internists. Some had PNPs as well.
My job as a community health nurse was to oversee this. I knew all of the patients although I was only routinely responsible for our patients in our clinic...those of my doc and our staff (translator, LPN, MA, tech). There were 3 docs full time.
I followed the health of our patients the best I could. I kept track of what immunizations were needed by which kids. I had an automated system that could tell me who was due. I notified Mrs X that it was time for her XYZ test. I decided which health information they should be getting. I kept track of the recommendations for routine health screenings for every age group. I was responsible for my patients having proper access to the recommended tests, exams, and information for their age group and diagnosis. I kept track of who needed what.
A huge part of my job was education. So in my experience community health nurses are engaged in attempting to positively impact health behaviors...especially in the poor communities.
Our staff did not allow Mrs X to get out of the office without an appointment for the referral that Dr L just made. We made the appt for her while she helped us choose an approp time/day. We helped them discover transportation if necessary. We took some services to them.
Our company had quite a nice RV that had been converted into a mobile dental van. We also had a mobile medical van. We could go right into a mobile home park or migrant camp and offer well child visits, immunizations, or a DDS visit.
We were very focused on specific problems and tried to follow outcomes as closely as possible because we were heavily funded by grants. Of course we were also trying to provide quality primary care to a large client base.
Some of us worked with a mix of patient "type". For instance, some worked primarily with hispanic agricultural workers and most of that staff was bilingual. Some worked with primarily inner city poor. Some worked with the rural poor...you know, the dirt poor folk who live in a shack trailer on an acre plot 5 miles from no where.
It was rewarding work, very busy. Fun. Challenging on personal and professional levels.
On the other hand...some days it was just a crazy office nurse job.
Last edit by tewdles on Dec 2, '10