What Is the Role of Nurses in the Community?

When you think of your future nursing job, do you picture yourself in a hospital or a doctor's private practice? If so, you are not alone. While these are great places to work, there are many other opportunities for nurses who want to get involved in their communities.

Promoting and Protecting Health

One of the biggest health problems in the United States today is heart disease. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease claimed more than 630,000 lives in 2016 alone, making it the number one killer of Americans. To make matters worse, many cases of heart disease can be prevented with proper diet and exercise. However, many Americans do not know how to start a safe exercise routine or eat healthier diet. This is where nurses can make a huge difference in their communities.

Many nurses find great satisfaction working in public health clinics, community centers and other public resource organizations where they can teach their communities about proper health. By educating people about nutrition, proper portion sizes and healthy exercise routines, nurses can help reduce the incidence of heart disease and other preventable conditions. 

Risk Reduction

While promoting health and educating the public is an important part of community nursing, the role of a nurse goes beyond health promotion. Many cities around the nation have programs that target at-risk populations and nurses are in high demand to join these teams.

At-risk populations include specific groups that may be more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors or that may be more likely to suffer from health problems. For example, homeless people and those living below the poverty line are more likely to suffer from nutrition problems and infection. Drug users are more likely to contract hepatitis and HIV, while pregnant teens are more likely to experience birth complications.

By joining non-profit organizations, clinics and shelters that are working hard to help at-risk individuals, nurses can help reduce the chances of disease, infection and even death for those most in need of help.

Disease Management and Control

Vaccinations are an essential part of disease prevention. This includes vaccinating everyone for the flu every fall, vaccinating children for diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella, and encouraging travelers to see a doctor for any boosters or vaccinations they need before a trip abroad.

In addition to vaccines, nurses can help prevent and control the spread of diseases by educating people about proper hand washing techniques. Many people do not know that common household items such as doorknobs and remotes are key culprits in the spread of illness at home. Nurses can also teach their communities about illnesses that have been getting mass attention in the media, such as the Zika virus. By educating your community about viruses like Zika and how to prevent it, you can play an important role in reducing panic and preventing disease.

There are several nursing job opportunities within the community in settings you may not readily expect. For example, most schools — ranging from the elementary to collegiate levels — have several nurses on staff. Mental health facilities, prisons, public health departments, community clinics, churches and even cruise ships are other employers of nurses. Nurses bring evidence based research into these settings to provide preventative care and screening to diverse populations.

Building Trust

Nurses are integral members of the community who help people in all segments of society. From schools to clinical settings to homeless shelters, nurses touch the lives of countless people every day. This presence and the dedication to helping others goes beyond promoting health, helping those at risk, and stopping the spread of communicable diseases. Nurses also build trust between citizens and the health care profession.

Every time you tell a neighbor how to reduce allergy symptoms or teach a new mother how to best care for her infant's cold, you are building a reputation of reliability and trustworthiness for nurses. Building trust in the community is one of the most important roles nurses play because it encourages people to seek healthcare when they need it and trust that providers will give them great care.

Nurses are community heroes. Whether you specialize in home health nursing or neonatal nursing, nurses are trusted with protecting lives and promoting health. If you are looking for a way to help your community, consider getting involved in volunteer outreach projects, shelters, schools and other community resources. Or better yet, consider using all of your nursing knowledge and autonomy to work in one of these exciting settings. It is never too late to give back to your community and the best way to do it is by improving the health and quality of life for those near you.

Learn more about UNM's online RN to BSN program.


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