• CPS - Nursing Article

     By Dr. Jean Benzel-Lindley, Adjunct Faculty, Kaplan University School of Nursing  


    Nursing as a profession is still among the more chronically junior of the health professions. While humans have always had caregivers present in any society, it is only within the past 160 years that nursing as a skilled occupation has flourished. From the early days of formalized nursing the role of the nurse in community settings has helped to set public h`ealth standards. The first recorded use of a district nurse treating members of a community is recorded as happening in England in the 1860s. Here in the United States, nurses were graduating from established schools of nursing by 1875 but the term and role definition of “public health nurse” first came into nursing’s professional language in 1893 due to the pioneering works of Lillian Wald. The ongoing role of the public health nurse is in the care and education of people where they live, to aid in the prevention of disease states, and to improve overall health status through partnerships with individuals, communities, public service organizations, and governmental agencies. Public health nursing has continued to evolve from its primary focus of contagious disease prevention to new health initiatives and agendas such as chronic illness case management plans, cancer detection programs, and ongoing educational series aimed at increasing people’s understanding of how everyday habits impact their overall health.

    While the majority of public health nurses perform similar function across the United States, I will detail the role of public health nurses in my area of the country. The Southern Nevada Health District is the main employer of public health nurses in the Las Vegas region. Las Vegas is an international travel destination. This means that public health safety for travelers and residents is of paramount importance to this community. Public health nurses maintain a clinic within the international terminal at McCarran Airport to spot and help treat any potential person entering the country with a communicable illness. Other duties for the public health nurse in Las Vegas may include treatment of children and adolescents in the clinic setting to home care of new mothers and infants. The needs of the local senior citizens are addressed in the immunizations clinics and with the chronic illness case management programs. Issues such as family planning and HIV screening are handled by public health nurse attached to the sexual health clinic. In the tuberculosis clinic, there remains a focus on the limiting the spread of any contagious condition and treating those infected.

    The future of public health nursing is now being considered. In addition, the role of the nurse will continue as an active agent in the promotion of general public health through educational programs and disease prevention initiatives. The practice of this portion of the nursing profession will continue to shift outward to the larger arena of population management as we help people create new expectations for health and quality of life.

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