Public Health Nursing Section Seeks to Raise Its Voice, Vision

By Johnson, Teddi Dineley | The Nation's Health, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Public Health Nursing Section Seeks to Raise Its Voice, Vision


Johnson, Teddi Dineley, The Nation's Health


Public health nursing is at a crossroads. New concerns and challenges related to public health and public health nursing are emerging, and APHA's Public Health Nursing Section is addressing them with a new campaign designed to educate the public and other health care professionals about public health nursing and its essential evidence-based role in the health care delivery system.

With its new Vision, Voice and Visibility Campaign, Section leaders will work to integrate public health nursing into all aspects of public health and nursing practice, as well as strengthen the Section's capacity to represent the nation's public health nurses, said Section Chair Marjorie Buchanan, MS, RN, course coordinator for community public health nursing at the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore.

"We want to have a much more active voice," Buchanan said. "We want to be present where the action is in both public health and nursing, and be heard above the din."

Much of nursing is focused on individual clinical care, Buchanan said, and public health nursing focuses on populationfocused care, "and it is that intersection that we think is really important for the well-being of people in the community today," she said.

"We want the public health nursing voice to be sufficiently strong that it is considered essential and on the leading edge," Buchanan said. "The campaign is built on the priorities, principles and unique contributions that public health nurses make."

Public health nursing provides a unique and essential role in both public health and nursing, she said, noting that the profession travels in two worlds: the world of public health and the world of nursing.

"It is important for us to be visible and vocal in both of those worlds, to be vocal about responsibilities, needs and effective evidencebased strategies for health improvement and particularly how to work collaboratively with communities today," she said.

In recent years, situations have emerged to weaken the public health nursing base, Buchanan said. Redirected funding streams, reimbursable health care services and categorical programs, for example, have contributed to the decline in the number of public health nurses working in health departments today.

"In the world of nursing, public health nursing has been somewhat disregarded," Buchanan said, or "left off the radar screen," even though nurses in the public health arena confront the same work force issues as their counterparts in the world of nursing.

The issue is of sufficient concern to be a topic of conversation at every Section meeting, Buchanan said.

"But the Section's leaders have decided not to allow ourselves to be constrained by the challenges," she said. "We have to sharpen our thoughts about our work and grab hold of our capacity to be leaders."

To that end, the Public Health Nursing Section has identified five priorities that are key to the creation of a strong and effective public health nursing leadership. The priorities are social justice, work force issues, health disparities, student engagement and environmental health. …

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