A nurse talking with a patient

How Nursing Creates Health Communities

For a long time, nursing has been more than a supplementary role to physicians. In many ways, modern nurses serve distinct purposes and split tasks with doctors in the interest of time. One such purpose involves building healthy communities in their immediate areas of practice.

In what ways can nurses vastly improve the wellness of their patients? Does the value of preventive care nursing and population health management go beyond a nurse’s neighborhood?

Nurses use their expertise to prevent illness

Obviously, actual wellness is the first step to creating a healthy community. Nurses perform frontline preventive care in four ways:

  • Educate families on how to stay healthy and avoid risk
  • Carry out routine check-ups to confirm health and progress
  • Address illnesses while still controllable and contained
  • Oversee patients during recovery or treatment process

As simple and straightforward as these nursing duties appear, they matter greatly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preventable illnesses account for 7 out of 10 deaths in the United States today. Moreover, the cost of treating chronic preventable illnesses represents $0.75 of every dollar spent on health care in America.

However, to truly build healthy communities, nursing professionals must also reach out to communities that may be underrepresented. Take, for example, one study recently published in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Researchers found people with disabilities are far less likely to receive adequate preventive care than those without because of physical limitations, restricted access and lack of transportation to and from health care facilities.

America’s 3 million-plus nurses all work to remedy disparities like these by providing equal access preventive care in clinics, making house calls if patients require such services, moving to remote communities and integrating telehealth into care.

Nurses investigate the roots of preventable disease


The act of nursing extends far beyond acute and/or primary care, beyond the medical world even. Preventive health and population health management includes variables proven connected and ancillary to comprehensive health care: social, cultural, economic, political, racial, etc. By analyzing these trends and applying them to holistic health standards, caregivers become better equipped to preempt destructive, often fatal chronic illnesses through targeted intelligent care.

Obesity is a particularly multifaceted epidemic in America. Nurses understand the consequences of unaddressed obesity: higher incidence of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver damage, strokes. But how can nurses develop effective plans that educate patients on the dangers and solutions when, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more than 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 6 children is considered obese? That’s a lot of different people who are dangerously overweight for myriad reasons.

In this sense, nurses are like community health inspectors. To successfully manage the health of their neighbors, they must learn everything they can about them if they wish to tailor actionable solutions. They must observe, ask the right questions during appointments and follow-up with their patients. The ability to place illness into a greater context is one of a nurse’s many powerful duties.

According to research from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, food insecurity predominantly affects female-led single family households and families of color. Is information like this applicable to any patients under their care? Do obese patients belong to the millions of people trapped in “food deserts,” low-income, often rural areas with limited to no access to fresh foods? Do they have access to healthy foods but spend too much money on housing to afford better groceries? Have they struggled to sign up for meal assistance programs because of bureaucracy? Is their obesity the result of an undiagnosed long-term depressive episode caused by a stressful work environment or the loss of a loved one?

Preventive health and population health management require answers to these questions and millions more. Knowledgeable, curious nurses are those best suited to uncover them.

Nurses lead the charge on public health policy

Although nurses stand at the front lines in the war against preventable disease, direct contact with patients is far from their only purpose. Nurses also help private insurers and lawmakers reroute the direction of health care nationwide and improve medicine for everyone, especially the disadvantaged.

Sometimes the changes are small but reverberant, as was the case with one study on the relationship between cost sharing and mammogram screenings published in the New England Journal of Medicine. A team of researchers found a possible correlation between high-deductible health insurance and lower rates of breast cancer screenings. Women from low-income communities, fearing the financial burden of co-payments, habitually abstained from early detection methods for a fatal disease that affects 1 in 8 women. Insurers and employers sponsoring health insurance plans cannot connect dots like these, but nurses can and regularly do.

In other cases, nurses can influence huge swaths of the U.S. economy. Individual preventable illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Combined, those statistics reach into the trillions. Each time a patient pays out-of-pocket to treat a chronic illness, each time a business loses a valuable worker because of sick days, each time an insurer raises premiums across the board to make up for the risks of its least healthy plan participants, these figures go up.

In representing the medical profession and sharing their education and training with the rest of the world, nurses have the power to relieve the pressure of high health care costs at a national level, stimulate the economy and defend underrepresented communities, all while preventing suffering and improving the quality of life for all their patients.

For nurses, it’s all in a day’s work.

Enroll in the Rutgers University Online Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree program

Registered nurses interested in earning bachelor’s degree should consider the benefits of Rutgers University’s 100 percent online program.

With help from intuitive web-based portals, recorded lectures and digital resources, working professionals can access everything they need to complete their studies around their busy schedules.

Registered nurses with at least undergraduate degrees have a great deal of jobs to choose from. A B.S. in Nursing is also the best way to start down the path to graduate and postgraduate studies. Fully accredited and staffed with experts in medicine, the Rutgers University Online RN to B.S. in Nursing puts students on the fast track to a more successful career and a greater understanding of what it means to be a health care professional.

For more information on how you can earn an accredited undergraduate nursing degree from Rutgers University in your spare time, visit our website and contact a Rutgers representative today.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/preventivehealth.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28266148

http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/nursing-fact-sheet

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx

http://stateofobesity.org/food-insecurity/

http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/nejmsa070929

http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics

https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/

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