The field of public health nursing is one that focuses on health needs of the whole community. Public health nurses practice as generalists and provide care in the home, school, workplace and various community settings. A number of people and events have shaped the profession of public health nursing. In 1918 Lillian Wald, a nurse from New York City, promoted the beginnings of public health nursing. Loretta Ford co-developed the first nurse practitioner program in 1965. (Jones and Bartlett Learning, LLC, 2012) Florence Nightingale, considered the “mother” of modern nursing, stressed the importance of data collection in nursing, something that is paramount to the public health context. Nightingale’s work also led to the introduction of nursing research and evidence-based practice. The industrial revolution was a period of advancement for public health nursing, in that Nightingale and citizens like her attempted to address poor health conditions in the home by reaching out to inform families in home and community settings. Nightingale’s “Notes on Nursing” (1992) was written for non-nurses who had the role of caring for family members and specifically addressed points Nightingale believed would improve the health of the home. She advanced the idea that prevention was more cost effective than treating illness, a concept the health profession has embraced. (Jones and Bartlett Learning, LLC, 2012)
Public health nursing has given nurses status in their own right as healthcare professionals. Before the important work of nurses such as Wald, Ford, and Nightingale, nursing positions were filled by low-income women, often prostitutes, and instructed to be “devoted and obedient”. (Jones and Bartlett Learning, LLC, 2012) Within the field of public health nursing, nurses serve a direct-care role to families and communities, educating citizens on health practices, gathering data, conducting their own research, drawing conclusions, putting together care plans, and publishing their findings to the advancement of medicine.
Jones and Bartlett Learning, LLC. (2012). The Profession of Nursing. Retrieved from jbpub.com: http://samples.jbpub.com/9781449649029/46066_CH01_6031.pdf