The History of Public Health and the Role of the Community/Public Health Nurse

Topics: Nursing, Health care, Public health Pages: 4 (1137 words) Published: December 7, 2013




The History of Public Health and the Role of the Community/Public Health Nurse When considering the evolution of healthcare and the role of the nurse in the United States, many people might first consider this in the context of the hospital setting. While the history of acute care is an important area to consider, it is imperative that equal attention be given to the history of public health and the role played by the nurse in this segment of the healthcare continuum. The purpose of this paper is to outline the history of the public health nurse and to specifically look at the role of nursing in home health and hospice. History of Public Health Nursing

In the late 1800’s there was a large number of people living in poverty throughout the world, with New York City being no exception. Lillian Wald was a pioneer of the public health movement whose role as a public health nurse in New York City was born out of true necessity. Wald “believed that public health nurses must treat social and economic problems, not simply take care of sick people” (Fee & Bu, 2010, p. 1206).

In the latter part of the 19th century, there was an increasing understanding about the science behind communicable disease and the importance of educating people regarding disease prevention to reduce the spread of illness (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2012). Settlement houses were one avenue used to reach the community in need and teach disease prevention strategies, along with helping this population gain access to social services often including childcare, public kitchens, public baths, and shelter for the homeless. In 1893, two trained nurses in New York City, Lillian Wald and Mary Brewster, established the Henry Street Settlement. This led into the development of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York City (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2012). Wald’s work as a nurse in the...

References: Fee, E., & Bu, L. (2010). The Origins of Public Health Nursing: The Henry Street Visiting Nurse
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Kulbok, P.A., Thatcher, E., Park, E., & Meszaros, P.S. (May 31, 2012) Evolving Public Health
Nursing Roles: Focus on community participatory health promotion and
Weckmann, M.T. (2008). The Role of the Family Physician in the Referral and Management of
Hospice Patients
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