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NURS 4010 Walden University

Application: The History of Public Health and the Role of the Community/Public Health Nurse

Using Chapter 2 in the course textbook, your assigned reading on the role of the nurse in a specific public health setting, and this week’s media presentation, address the following in a 2- to 3-page paper:

Trace the history of the public health nurse including the contributions made by Lillian Wald and the Henry Street Settlement. Also, summarize the role of the nurse in the practice setting assigned. Include the following in your summary:

  • Explain how the core functions of community/public health nursing and the standards of practice are met with that specific role.
  • Describe the population served by the nurse in this role.
  • Which interventions might the nurse in this role utilize?
  • Explain the level of practice used in this practice setting (primary/secondary/tertiary).
  • Describe an ethical dilemma that might be encountered in this nursing role.

The Application Assignment is due by Day 7.

Application: The History of Public Health and the Role of the Community/Public Health Nurse


Public health nursing (PHN) practice is population-focused and requires unique knowledge, competencies, and skills. Early public health nursing roles extended beyond sick care to encompass advocacy, community organizing, health education, and political and social reform. Likewise, contemporary public health nurses practice in collaboration with agencies and community members. The purpose of this article is to examine evolving PHN roles that address complex, multi-causal, community problems. A brief background and history of this role introduces an explanation of the community participation health promotion model. A community-based participatory research project, Youth Substance Use Prevention in a Rural County provides an exemplar for description of evolving PHN roles focused on community health promotion and prevention. Also included is discussion about specific competencies for PHNs in community participatory health promoting roles and the contemporary PHN role.

Citation: Kulbok, P.A., Thatcher, E., Park, E., Meszaros, P.S. (May 31, 2012) “Evolving Public Health Nursing Roles: Focus on Community Participatory Health Promotion and Prevention” OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 17, No. 2, Manuscript 1.

DOI: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol17No02Man01

Key words: community health promotion, community-based participatory research (CBPR), public health nursing, PHN competencies, nursing roles

[Public health nursing] roles involve collaboration and partnerships with communities and populations to address health and social conditions and problems. Public health nursing (PHN) involves working with communities and populations as equal partners, and focusing on primary prevention and health promotion (ANA, 2007). These and other distinguishing characteristics of PHN evolved in the context of historical and philosophical perspectives on health, preventive health care, and the professionalization of nursing. Specifically, these are roles that involve collaboration and partnerships with communities and populations to address health and social conditions and problems.

Public health nursing developed as a distinct nursing specialty during a time when expanding scientific knowledge and public objection to squalid urban living conditions gave rise to population-oriented, preventive health care. Public health nurses were seen as having a vital role to achieve improvements in the health and social conditions of the most vulnerable populations. Early leaders of PHN also saw themselves as advocates for these groups.

In the 21st century, public health nurses practice in diverse settings including, but not limited to, community nursing centers; home health agencies; housing developments; local and state health departments; neighborhood centers; parishes; school health programs; and worksites and occupational health programs. High-risk, vulnerable populations are often the focus of care and may include the frail elderly, homeless individuals, sedentary individuals, smokers, teen mothers, and those at risk for a specific disease.

Contemporary PHN practice, like the practice of early PHN leaders, is often provided in collaboration with several agencies and focused on population characteristics that cross institutional boundaries (Association of Community Health Nursing Education [ACHNE], 2003). PHN practice and roles are defined from,

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