Public Health Nursing Section Updates Definition of Profession: Supporting Documentation Revised

Article excerpt

WHILE the responsibilities of public health nurses have changed since 1996, a Public Health Nursing Section document defining those challenges had not. The Section's "Definition and Practice of Public Health Nursing" document had not had a complete overhaul in nearly two decades.

But that changed in November after the Section approved a revised document, the result of a year of surveys, edits and recommendations led by a 15-person task force.

According to the definition, "Public health nursing is the practice of promoting and protecting the health of populations using knowledge from nursing, social and public health sciences."

While the exact wording of the definition did not change, the supporting document did. New additions to the document include the role of public health nurses in relation to addressing the social determinants of health, such as education, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, and how factors such as poor living conditions may negatively affect health.

The Section's definition document has been cited in scholarly papers and textbooks, and it has value to scholarship and advancing practice of public health nursing, said Betty Beke meier, PhD, MPH, RN, co-chair of the Public Health Nursing Definition Document Task Force. But there was concern that so much had changed in health systems and public health that an update was necessary, she said.

"We really felt a real pressing need to update that and have something more current that the Section has affirmed as our current definition of supporting information," Bekemeier told The Nation's Health. "There might have been catalysts related to the Affordable Care Act, community health practice, the development of public health nursing competencies, all of those things were occurring with the document still referring to the context that existed in the early to mid 1990s."

In early 2013, the Section sent an email to all members who were interested in being on the task force to update the document. Once formed, the task force started with an online discussion board discussing the 1996 document, asking members what they liked about it and what they wanted to see changed. Based on the feedback, the task force created a survey to identify areas that members reached a consensus on for how to move forward with a new document. …