The Population-Focused Analysis Project for Teaching Community Health

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

New instructional methodologies that foster student inquiry, critical thinking, accountability, group work, and self-mastery skills must be created to meet the challenges of modern community health nursing. Bold steps need to be taken to examine current nursing curricula and institute innovative teaching-learning methods to achieve these outcomes. Designing a unique way of providing clinical practice in community assessment is one step toward achieving these goals. The purpose of this article is to share the development, implementation, and evaluation of the Population Focused Analysis Project (PFAP). This new approach to community assessment for baccalaureate nursing students links theory and clinical practice and provides students with an opportunity to learn about and implement the core functions of public health in relation to a selected population.

Key Words Community Health Nursing - Teaching Methods Community Assessment - Distance Education - Populations Nursing Curriculum

C HANGES IN HEALTH CARE, new nursing roles, emerging technologies, and complex health problems are some of the issues leading to calls for innovative teaching-learning methods and an examination of current nursing curricula. Designing new ways of providing community assessment clinical practice is one step toward meeting these challenges. THIS ARTICLE TELLS OF THE DEVELOPMENT, IMPLEMENTATION, AND EVALUATION OF A NEW APPROACH TO COMMUNITY ASSESSMENT FOR NURSING STUDENTS KNOWN AS THE POPULATION-FOCUSED ANALYSIS PROJECT (PFAP).

Prior to the development of PFAP, community assessment had been a strength of the basic community health nursing (CHN) preparation in this baccalaureate nursing program, which is taught at two locations 200 miles apart. The theoretical concepts of community assessment were taught in a theory course, followed by a one-day related clinical exercise, usually in a geographically defined area of the local community. Most students loved the community experience. However, with curricular changes mandating a compressed 12-week semester for this final senior-level course, a new method for doing community assessment was required.

After analyzing essential content and desired experiences, a plan to guide students through a structured population analysis emerged. Two courses would be created, a theory course taught using interactive television, and a separate clinical course that provides an opportunity for small groups of three to four students to apply community assessment theory to a discrete population. The clinical course expands on the traditional eight hours of clinical practice experience and one hour of clinical conference by adding three clinical hours devoted to denning and analyzing the needs of a selected population (12 clinical hours). Together, the two courses use the core functions of public health as a framework to integrate community health theory and practice.

Theoretical Basis An essential characteristic of PFAP is its focus on populations, defined as collections of individuals who share at least one characteristic, such as a risk for illness, but who may or may not interact with one another or consider themselves members of a group. An example would be schoolchildren with diabetes. Population-focused practice is community oriented, collaborative, inclusive, scientific, and directed toward developing programs and policies within the larger system to address the health needs of the population (1,2).

The role of the community health nurse providing care for populations is enacted through three public health core functions: assessment, policy development, and assurance (3). Community health nurses assess specified populations or communities using qualitative and quantitative research methods to identify health-related needs, strengths, and expectations of the population. In conjunction with various stakeholders, community health nurses analyze data and develop policies and programs to protect and promote health. …