The field of nursing offers a number of crucial and rewarding career paths across the healthcare industry. Professionals can take part in serving patients through emergency care, administration and other specializations. This career profile series will explore some of the potential job opportunities available to those looking to help make an impact as a nursing professional.
Traditionally a nursing professional will care for one person at a time, rotating between rooms and patients while working to meet each individual’s unique needs based on personal criteria. However, on a larger scale some of those individual needs are also the needs of specific populations, which is where specialized community nurses can be employed to help provide consultation and care.
Community nursing is defined as a nurse who works within a large populace, usually defined geographically. Serving in these areas, their practice is not limited to people in a specific age group or with a certain diagnosis. Instead, a community nurse’s duties are broader and often aimed more at preventative health care, community education and activities that support that goal.
Community Nursing Overview
Working as a community nurse, the breadth of responsibility can cover a wide number of issues that directly impact or affect the population being served. While it may seem broad in scope, this work can help to make a huge difference to specific individuals and their families, with the results adding up to increased well being across the community as a whole.
Community nurses typically work in five key areas:
- Patient Treatment: A primary duty that involves providing affordable consultation and care.
- Preventative Health: Distributing information, flyers, vaccinations and medications throughout the community.
- Organizing of Programs: Activities, speaking events and classes geared towards addressing community wide health concerns, and their treatment and prevention.
- Advocacy: Assisting organizations with finding funding for facilities and providing affordable treatment on behalf of the community.
- Research: Engaging in exploratory research to determine risk factors, at risk individuals and discover health concerns based on community demographics
Community nurses frequently apply these methods of care while working with low income and uninsured populations from diverse cultural backgrounds. In these instances the main goal isn’t just about simply treating health-related issues but also working to prevent them through education. There are four major health risk behaviors that are modifiable and result in much of the illness, suffering and early death associated with chronic disease:
- Poor nutrition
- Tobacco use
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive alcohol consumption
The World Health Organization estimates that if these four health risks were eliminated, “80 percent of all heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes would be prevented and more than 40 percent of cancer cases would be prevented.”
These staggering statistics only serve to illuminate the importance of community nurses and the preventative work they do as teachers and thought leaders in school and community groups, senior centers and elsewhere in their communities. Through these activities where they work to make health information easier to understand and even entertaining, community nurses can truly make a difference in the health and wellbeing of community members.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) between 2009 and 2039, “The number of Americans aged 65 years or older is expected to double, generating a 25 percent increase in health care spending before taking inflation or new technologies into account.”
In addition to increases in money being spent, the aging population is also expected to take a toll on health care providers’ time and availability due to a lack of preventive care. Although 95 percent of the baby boomer generation agrees preventive care is important, only 32 percent are actually receiving the preventive care recommended.
It’s not just the aging populations that aren’t getting the preventive care they need, many kids are lacking in treatment as well. According to the CDC, younger generations aren’t receiving basic preventative services related to medical, dental and vision health - all of which can lead to more complicated medical issues later in life.
- In 2007 nearly 8 in 10 parents of children aged 10 to 47 months were not offered a comprehensive screening for developmental delays by a health care provider.
- More than half (56 percent) of children and adolescents had not visited a dentist in the past year, and 9 out of 10 did not receive dental sealants or fluoride treatments to prevent cavities.
- Females aged 13 to 17 don't receive the HPV vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus, which is linked to cancer. Nearly half of all girls aged 13 to 17 did not get the vaccine in 2011. Additionally, almost 2/3 of sexually active females aged 15 to 21 years had not received chlamydia screening in the past year.
- Between 2009 and 2010, about half of all infants who failed their hearing screening were not documented to have received testing needed to diagnose hearing loss, and only 22 percent of 5-year-olds had ever had their vision checked by a health care provider.
Career Opportunities for Community Nurses
Community nurses have opportunities to work in a wide range of facilities including local hospitals, trauma centers, clinics, government agencies, nonprofits, community health centers and research facilities. In fact, it’s not uncommon for community nurses to travel for work to a number of communities in order to provide care and education.
Community nurses are in demand, especially in low income and medically underserved populations as well as in government organizations. Like other medical professions, the salaries for those working in this field vary based on location and employer but on average community nurses can expect to make $51,000.
Community nurses are truly on the front lines of preventative health in today’s world. Those wanting to specialize in this area may want to consider earning their bachelor of science in nursing. The fundamentals taught in BSN programs like the one offered through Arizona State University Online can help you prepare to work directly with people of all ages with a need for education, advocacy and services; thereby dedicating your career to ensuring more people are able to lead long and healthy lives.