Nurses are valued community members and play vital roles in improving the world. While healthcare professionals play an essential role in treating illnesses and injuries, nurses also take on roles that go beyond the bedside.
These roles include advocacy, public health education, environmental health education, and more. From managing the health of our nation’s children to educating the public about preventative care, nurses play an indispensable role in making sure that everyone stays healthy.
An overview of nurses
Nurses are professionals who provide medical care and emotional support to patients, often while they are recovering from injuries or illnesses. They can receive training as registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), or as both.
RNs can work on any floor at a hospital, including intensive care units, labor and delivery, operating rooms, emergency departments, surgical units and psychiatric wards.
LPNs typically work under RN supervision in an outpatient setting or nursing home. If you aspire to be a nurse, you can enroll in the Elmhurst University nursing program and become a registered nurse in under two years. For those with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, Elmhurst also offers two full-time second-degree nursing program options.
You can choose the Accelerated BSN or the Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice program. These programs allow you to fast-track your education while gaining hands-on clinical experience within your local community.
These programs may suit those with an undergraduate degree or higher degree in another field who wish to pursue their dream career as a nurse.
Essential responsibilities for nurses in community health
Nurses are crucial in any community, but it’s easy to forget the valuable roles that nurses play in our daily lives. When people think of nurses and nursing, they often focus on the medical side of the position.
While these medical skills are essential to a practical nurse, they’re only one aspect of nurses’ many roles in our communities. Some of the various crucial roles of nurses include the following:
Advocates for health promotion
Nurses are advocates for health promotion, which means they educate people about their health and help them make choices that will lead to better health. This might include teaching people how to prevent illness or manage chronic diseases such as diabetes or asthma.
It can also include informing patients about new treatments that may be available for their condition. For example, nurses advocate for their diabetic patients by educating them on preventing complications and managing blood sugar levels.
This action helps reduce the risk of chronic conditions from progressing, which helps to improve patient outcomes. As health promotion advocates, nurses teach patients how to make good lifestyle choices.
These good decisions positively affect an individual’s health and create a ripple effect on the community. Improving the overall health of individuals directly reduces the need for hospital visits and long-term care.
Participating in rehabilitation
In addition to providing care for patients, nurses also participate in rehabilitation by evaluating and planning treatment. They ensure that a patient is ready for discharge and provide follow-up care to help ensure that their progress continues.
Nurses play many roles in rehabilitating people, whether teaching them how to walk again after suffering from paralysis or helping them cope with mental trauma.
The type of rehabilitation varies depending on the person’s diagnosis, but it can include physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy.
During the program, the nurse may collaborate with other healthcare team members, including physicians, physical therapists and therapists, to create an individualized rehabilitation plan.
Providing healthcare education and counseling
Nurses play an essential role in providing health education and counseling. They help people find the information and resources needed to maintain their health or recover from an illness.
Nurses often work with people who cannot cope with a life-threatening situation alone, such as recovering from surgery or dealing with chronic illness. In this capacity, nurses may provide support and guidance through physical rehabilitation.
Nurses also advise on managing pain and medications, following instructions for diet changes or wound care, understanding how exercise can help improve quality of life, and more.
Counseling activities include listening to patients’ emotional problems and giving emotional support, especially when patients have experienced traumatic events.
The act of listening is sometimes all that patients may need for healing and recovery. If you cannot solve the problem in one session, you can refer patients to appropriate sources of assistance.
Conducting health screenings
Nurses are often on the front line when it comes to health screenings. They are often responsible for conducting health screenings and treating minor illnesses.
Nurses can conduct these screenings at various locations, such as schools, hospitals and community centers. When creating healthcare awareness in the community, nurses will go door-to-door and administer screenings or distribute information about a prevalent disease in the area.
Sometimes they may set up clinics where people can get tested without going through a physician first. This action benefits the community because it helps diagnose diseases earlier so that treatment is more effective.
It also prevents the spread of these diseases, since many people who would have been unaware can get screened before passing their illness to others.
An essential part of this job is teaching people how to stay healthy and keep themselves from getting sick; nurses also teach about nutrition, hygiene and other ways to prevent illness.
Nurses play a pivotal role in helping to prevent infectious diseases by administering immunizations. These diseases include polio, measles, mumps and rubella. Nurses also administer booster shots to ensure that vaccines are effective.
A nurse might help patients obtain travel immunizations before they leave the country or continent. Nurses must administer immunizations to individuals, especially children, who cannot get them on their own because they are too young or have compromised immune systems.
Nurses should know how each vaccine works and which ones should be administered depending on the individual’s age. For example, a child will receive the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine or TDaP (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis).
There are different vaccination schedules based on the type of infection vaccinated against among other factors. Nurses must keep up with these changes and any updates to CDC recommendations.
Coordinating care with other healthcare providers
Nurses are often at the forefront of coordinating care with other healthcare providers. For example, if a primary care physician is treating a patient for diabetes and needs to refer that person to another specialist, they may consult with a nurse who is an expert on diabetes management.
Nurse clinicians also work closely with allied health professionals, such as physical therapists and dietitians, to provide comprehensive patient care.
Nurses also take responsibility for overseeing how patients receive medications. For instance, doctors might require nurses to provide two pills every 12 hours instead of one capsule every 12 hours.
The pharmacist would prescribe those doses, but because nurses administer most medications, it is their job to ensure they give the correct amounts when needed.
Assisting doctors in performing general medical procedures
One of the nurses’ many roles is helping doctors perform general medical procedures. This role might include dressing wounds, providing medication and collecting samples for lab work.
To maintain a sterile environment during these procedures, nurses must follow specific guidelines for preparing and cleaning up afterward. For instance, they wear sterile gloves while they dress wounds.
Additionally, if they are administering medication, they need to make sure to avoid contamination and use an IV needle as needed. These precautions are essential because nurses can spread diseases between patients through contact with blood-borne pathogens.
These tasks are often performed under close supervision from doctors because they require specialized knowledge and skills.
Stopping the spread of infectious diseases
Infectious diseases are a significant concern for public health officials, and nurses are often on the front lines of prevention. One common way contagious diseases spread is by touching something contaminated with germs and then touching their noses or mouths.
Sometimes, these germs can be transferred from one person to another when they shake hands. As a result, nurses play a crucial role in creating awareness about disease-prevention techniques.
This includes proper handwashing techniques, wearing masks and gloves during treatments, or wearing protective clothing while treating patients with an infection.
Once exposed to an infection, nurses can also help contain its spread by following recommended procedures. These procedures may include moving patients out of crowded areas so they don’t come into contact with other individuals.
By helping control the transmission of infections before they get worse and cause more harm in society, nurses make an invaluable contribution to society’s overall health.
Interpreting and implementing nursing plans
Nurses are responsible for interpreting and implementing nursing plans. This means assessing a patient’s situation, formulating a plan and then implementing that plan to help the patient heal.
For example, when caring for someone with diabetes, nurses will monitor their blood sugar levels and provide insulin shots if needed. If they notice anything abnormal, they will address it immediately.
Nurses spend time communicating with patients so that both sides understand what needs to happen next, which helps create an atmosphere of trust and confidence between them.
They work closely with physicians to ensure patients get the care they need and are making progress on their treatment goals. Nurses need to be proactive about their patient’s care and stay up to date on any new treatments that might be available.
Formulating municipal health plans
Nurses may also determine what health services are crucial in their community. They do this by conducting surveys and interviews with the people who live there, their family members and health professionals.
After completing these surveys, nurses can better understand how their community is doing and what challenges it faces. Formulating a municipal health plan can be challenging for those with little experience.
When formulating municipal health plans, nurses would take into consideration the following:
- Any private providers that may already exist in the community
- Demographic data about residents
- Environmental factors such as poverty rates or access to clean water
- The strengths and weaknesses of any local services that may already exist, such as hospitals or clinics
Nurses would analyze all these components before making recommendations about how best to ensure the long-term sustainability of resources.
Providing care for the elderly
With our population aging, more and more people are looking to nursing homes as a place where they can receive care. Nursing homes ensure that people who are elderly have a safe, clean environment where they can live comfortably.
There are many jobs within nursing homes, including everything from housekeeping and groundskeeping to providing care for patients.
The residents need someone to assist them with bathing, dressing and preparing meals.
Often there is also a need for someone to talk with them or play games, so they don’t feel alone or forgotten.
Responding to natural disasters
Nurses are some of the first responders to natural disasters. They provide emergency medical care, help people find missing loved ones and distribute needed supplies.
Since nurses are experts on community health needs, they can also assess what resources a community needs to get back on its feet after a disaster. They also help with long-term recovery by providing healthcare for those who could not access it before or after a disaster strikes.
Additionally, nurses can offer information on how to prepare for future disasters. For example, if flooding is predicted during hurricane season, nurses may give tips on keeping safe. That way, people know how to handle the situation without panicking and harming themselves.
7 essential nursing skills every nurse needs to succeed
As nurses, it’s easy to get caught up in the technical aspects of patient care and forget the other skills that can make us more effective. Here are seven essential nursing skills every nurse needs to succeed:
Nurses need excellent communication skills to work with patients, families, nurses, doctors and other health care providers. Good communication skills help nurses provide appropriate care and make patients more comfortable.
Nurses can use various methods of communication depending on their needs and the situation they are in. This may include writing a note for a family member or talking directly with someone who speaks adifferent language.
Nursing is an art, but it’s also a science. Documenting what you do in the hospital or at home can be one of the most challenging parts of the job.
For nursing documentation to succeed, you’ll need to work on several skills, including research, interviewing and note-taking. Nurses need to record their assessments accurately so that there is no question about what happened during a patient’s stay.
Another essential nursing skill every nurse needs is a robust set of patient advocacy skills. Advocacy is the act of speaking or acting on behalf of another person.
In healthcare, this means taking an active role in advocating for patients by supporting them and helping them take ownership of their health.
Nurses must be able to assess their patients’ needs and advocate for them through counseling, guiding and collaborating with other members of the healthcare team.
Critical thinking skill
The ability to think critically sets the nurse apart from other healthcare providers.
Nurses need critical thinking skills, from assessing a patient’s condition to communicating with patients, families, colleagues and other healthcare team members.
You cannot learn critical thinking overnight or even after you graduate school. It takes time, practice and a lot of patience and dedication.
Time management means prioritizing tasks and knowing how much time you have for each. It also means learning to plan and ensure that your patients get the care they need.
You may not always be able to do everything you want in your shift, but you can prioritize what’s important and ensure it gets done.
Emotional intelligence skills
Nurses must be intelligent and emotionally stable and have excellent communication skills. However, emotional intelligence does not just mean having an even-tempered demeanor.
It also means handling any negativity your patients or superiors throw at you. To be a successful nurse, one needs empathy and compassion for the patient. The ability to express emotion through words can go a long way in easing anxiety in the patient.
Attention to detail
Nurses are detail-oriented professionals who have an eye for detail. They take care of people daily, so they must keep up their nursing skills and stay on top of new trends in the industry.
This skill will ensure they don’t miss anything while caring for patients. Attention to detail is a critical skill in any profession, but it is essential for nurses because one overlooked component could result in severe consequences or death.
Nurses are essential to any community, helping people feel better and providing care to those who need it. Nurses play many different roles in helping people, such as doctors and caregivers, among others.
They work together with these other professionals to create a safe place for all people to live. Nurses are essential in caring for patients and ensuring they are always comfortable.
People consider nurses the backbone of any healthcare system or hospital setting because the industry would struggle to cope without them. With so much responsibility, nurses must have the right tools and skills to do their job correctly.