How Much Public Health in Public Health Nursing Practice?


Kevin Grumbach, Janet Miller, Eliabeth Mertz, Len Finocchio

May 1, 2004

Public health nursing (PHN) practice is defined by an emphasis on population health issues rather than individually focused clinical interventions, but the actual scope and focus of PHN practice have not been well documented. The purpose of this survey was to investigate the practice activities, priorities, and education of public health nurses in California. Public health nurses in five counties were surveyed about interventions targeted at individual-family, community, and system levels. Summary scales (range: 1-4) were created to measure self-rated PHN activity, importance, and education at each level. Staff were most likely to perform individual-family level interventions (mean score, m=2.55), followed by community (m=1.86) and system-level interventions (m=1.46). Managers rated individual-family level interventions as most important (m=2.91) and community-level interventions (m=2.42) as more important than those at the system level (m=1.99). Individually focused case management was the most frequently performed and highly valued intervention. Staff and manager-directors deemed individual-family interventions as the area in which public health nurses were best educated, followed by community and then system interventions. Results indicate that the population health focus of public health nursing is not reflected in the practice activities, management priorities, or educational preparation of public health nurses.

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