Session Spotlight: The Role of Nursing in Advancing Population Health

Guest Author: Monica Hughes, MSN, RN, Clinical Assistant Professor, St. David’s School of Nursing, Texas State University
Session Title: The Role of Nursing in Advancing Population Health
Date: Thursday, October 17 (Day 1)
Time: 2:45 – 3:30pm

One night over the summer I entered my kitchen to find a group of young adults around my kitchen table, in hot pursuit of winning the round of whatever game they had in front of them.  My own college kids were home for the semester break and my house was the evening’s venue.  As my kids introduced me to their friends, they said, “She’s a public health nurse and she teaches community nursing.”  I watched the faces around me register confusion until one finally spoke up, “What is that?”  I laughed and gave a quick recap of what nurses do in public and community health roles – collaborations with community organizations and health departments and schools of nursing to promote health, advocacy for policy change, education of families and individuals, providing linkages to services (among many other things) – and assured this young man that he wasn’t the only one with that question.

Even people who know about efforts to address social needs and determinants of health to improve health outcomes in communities ask the question, but nursing roles leading community-based health interventions are the original nursing roles.  Early on, nurses visited in homes of pregnant women, taught families the importance of a clean environment, convinced farmers to bring their healthy foods to inner cities, and set up health screenings in churches and YMCAs.  Over time, those roles diminished as health became the purview of hospitals and clinics, and the general knowledge of how nurses impact community health dwindled.

Today is an exciting time for nursing, as thinkers and innovators for health improvement look again at the community as the perfect place for population health initiatives that have the potential to impact health outcomes for entire groups.  Nurses working in community and public health roles today in Texas are doggedly inserting themselves into policy, advocacy, community and school-based health promotion and prevention activities, food accessibility programs, environmental health and safety, and all kinds of other efforts.  They are collaborating across sectors and leading out on evidence-based projects with measurable impact – and are carefully educating the next generation of nurses to prepare to do the same.

At the Healthier Texas Summit this year, the Texas Team Action Coalition (sponsored by the Texas Nurses Association/Texas Nurse’s Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas) will bring together a panel of nurses working to enhance the involvement and contributions of nurses to advancing the health of their communities. During this conversation we will be addressing questions such as:

  • How are nurses affecting the health of communities?
  • What roles do nurses play in improving population health, and how are they viewed by community members and other professionals in these roles?
  • How can we identify opportunities for nursing engagement in community projects and partnerships?

On this panel, community nursing faculty and initiative leaders from around the state will describe nurse-led interventions, service-learning projects, and community partnerships, and will identify opportunities to elevate nursing participation in community health efforts.  Nurses, nursing students, community partners, and anyone involved in this work of advancing health may be inspired by this conversation and find the answer to the question, “What is public and community health nursing?”  I invite you to join us.

Attendance stipends available for nursing students and faculty!

The Texas Team Action Coalition is providing $500 stipends to support nursing student and faculty attendance at the Healthier Texas Summit. Twenty faculty and 20 student stipends are available. The deadline to apply is September 20. Learn more and submit your application here.