What Is Community Health Nursing?

Two major tenets of community health nursing are prevention and social justice

The two major tenets of community health nursing are prevention and social justice, and as a community health nurse, you must have a desire to help the disadvantaged. With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), you are prepared to apply your critical thinking skills, evidence-based practice and analytical abilities to serving individuals and communities that require medical attention.

The Importance of Community Health Nursing

In nursing, there are times when the health problem of an individual can be attributed to the community they live in. Factors like poverty, joblessness or a limited education can contribute to poor diet, lack of health insurance, and confusion about where to find medical assistance. Community health nursing brings healthcare to groups of people living in impoverished urban and rural areas.

The term “community health” describes the concept of meeting the healthcare needs of a group of people with the same socioeconomic background. When healthcare professionals treat a patient, the care may extend to their families and community. Within a community, there can be deterrents to making good choices, which can lead to risky behavior, violence, neglect and chronic health problems. Additionally, certain communities are susceptible to infectious diseases, environmental toxins, accidents and injuries.

Role of a Community Health Nurse

Community health nurses are also known as public health nurses. They may work in many healthcare settings such as homes, ambulatory care centers, schools and residential institutions. Essentially, community health nurses can work anywhere there are people in need. They are not only care providers they also fulfill the roles of:

  • Educator.
  • Advocate.
  • Collaborator.
  • Leader.
  • Researcher.

Nurses expand their medical care beyond just treatment. They focus on ways to assist vulnerable members of society such as the elderly, homeless, shut-ins and teen mothers. These nurses set up presentations at schools, senior centers and public venues to educate the community about healthy eating, bad health habits and where to go for healthcare.

Public health nurses advocate for underserved communities by participating in political and social reform. They collaborate with agencies and leaders in communities to institute health programs and interventions that address squalid health conditions and how to prevent the onset of illnesses like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and HIV/AIDS. A community health nurse may plan and develop community gardens, meet with city officials to encourage open areas for physical activities, or counsel pregnant women about public health resources to them and their babies.

Community health nurses do not always work alone. They may lead a multidisciplinary team to deliver full a spectrum of healthcare or to manage a health emergency. Oftentimes, community health nurses supervise other healthcare professionals and volunteers. As first responders, nurses who are employed by the federal government may lead relief efforts to administer care to survivors of disasters.

By developing an understanding of the social, cultural and ethnic structure of a community, nurses can pinpoint health concerns and incorporate intervention programs based on research. Additionally, community health nurses monitor alarming health trends to determine if specific communities are at risk.

Community Health Nurse’s Job

Typically, community health nurses work steady, daytime hours. If they work for a school or business, their schedule follows the hours of operation. However, nurses employed at 24-hour treatment facilities may have to work nights and weekends.

The duties of a community health nurse include:

  • Educating the public.
  • Conducting patient evaluations.
  • Administering care.
  • Providing referrals.
  • Directing patients to support services.
  • Visiting patients at home.

Community health nurses may manage clinics on college campuses, perform blood pressure and cholesterol screenings at health fairs, or implement wellness programs for corporations. In addition, they can work in higher education or clinical research.

Community Health Nursing Course at California State University of San Marcos (CSUSM)

CSUSM offers an online RN to BSN program. The program is convenient for working nurses who want to obtain a BSN. RNs with master’s degrees are available to coach and assist students who have questions or encounter problems.

The CSUSM online program includes a course called “Community Health Nursing” that examines the role of the public health nurses. Students explore modern health problems as they relate to people who cannot afford or do not have access to healthcare. Through research and assessment, students learn how to identify communities in need of health programs and interventions.

Demand for community health nurses remains high since there is still a large portion of society that does not have access to healthcare. Members of underprivileged communities need nurses to guide them to public services and ensure that they know when they may need help. For example, community health nurses can connect low income women to programs like The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), or they can direct individuals to treatment centers for addiction. As long as there are poverty-stricken communities, health crises, language barriers or cultural misunderstandings, community health nursing will continue to be a crucial part of healthcare.

Learn more about the CSUSM online RN to BSN program.


Evolving Public Health Nursing Roles: Focus on Community Participatory Health Promotion and Prevention. (2012, May). Retrieved April 29, 2016, from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Vol-17-2012/No2-May-2012/Evolving-Public-Health-Nursing-Roles.html

How to Become a BSN in Public Health Nursing. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2016, from http://www.bsnedu.org/public-health-nurse/

Meadows, P., PhD, RN. (2009). Community Health Nursing. Retrieved April 29, 2016, from http://journals.lww.com/ajnonline/Fulltext/2009/01001/Community_Health_Nursing.5.aspx

Storey, M., BSN, MS. (2013, August 2). Are You Considering a Career in Public Health Nursing? Retrieved April 29, 2016, from http://www.rwjf.org/en/culture-of-health/2013/08/are_you_considering.html

Theories Applied in Community Health Nursing. (2013, September 9). Retrieved April 29, 2016, from http://currentnursing.com/nursing_theory/theories_community_health_nursing.html

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