Whether on a traditional ward or in a physician’s office, nurses tend to focus their attention on one patient at a time. Population-focused practice is different because it involves monitoring and improving the health outcomes of entire populations. For the purposes of this type of nursing, a ‘population’ could refer to a small rural or urban community, an ethnic group or people in a specific age bracket. Whatever the population involved, the group will share a set of characteristics or health issues.
Why is population-focused care so important?
The work carried out by medical professionals in this field is based on assessments and research that has considered the needs of a community. Their methods take into account the population’s determinants of health. These could include a range of economic, educational, social or environmental factors. Entire teams can work together on a population-focused project, with practitioners from all levels of nursing becoming involved. They look at ways of helping people manage and successfully treat their health problems, but the key area of interest is finding a way to prevent these issues from occurring in the first place. The population’s health can be affected dramatically by a range of factors, some of these events are preventable while others strike swiftly and are almost impossible to predict.
The threat of infectious diseases
Contagions can spread incredibly quickly and infect a population before health professionals realize how significant the problem is becoming. As of February 2023, 103 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States and dealing with the pandemic had a major impact on our health system. Airborne infections can quickly become difficult to control and this calls for action that exceeds primary care help. From the adoption of telehealth to identifying the most at-risk people swiftly and educating the public, population-based health care was essential in tackling the crisis.
If you are one of the people who felt inspired by the work of medical professionals during the pandemic, you could train as a nurse through an online ABSN program, even if you have no previous experience. Designed by the University of Indianapolis for people with a bachelor’s degree in another subject, this fast-tracked nursing course includes a real-world clinical placement, but can still be completed within 15 months.
Checking the frequency of chronic disease
Chronic diseases are conditions which affect a person for longer than a year and call for regular medical interventions. In the US, the problem is vast as 60% of adults have one chronic disease and 40% have two or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These could include heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. As these complaints disproportionately affect certain sections of the population, such as those living in a low-income community and those who make up part of a minority group, population health nursing has been involved in a targeted fight. Through practice and as part of policy, nurses and other health professionals have engaged with local health departments to ensure they have the capacity and skills to help. Through educational campaigns, mobile clinics and preventative practice, they are working to promote healthy living and reduce instances of chronic disease.
Awareness of the social determinants of health
A person’s social circumstances affect their life expectancy, but also their chances of living without disease or disability. The determinants include where someone lives, their type of housing, their level of financial security and where they work. To minimize the effects of these forces on their patients, population nurses work with outside agencies, such as social workers, to address the underlying reasons for a person’s ill health. They also help to improve access to services and increase awareness of healthy behaviors in at-risk communities.
How does population-based nursing improve the nation’s health?
Population-based nursing is effective because it addresses a problem from every angle in a way that no other branch of healthcare can do. Interventions might be aimed at changing people’s attitudes, behaviors and beliefs when it comes to living healthily and accessing medical care. Along with changing norms within a community, population-based programs of care will include health professionals engaging with policymakers, organizations, businesses and the legal system. All the structures which can impact the health of the population are taken into consideration. This can take time, but in the long run, it is more effective at improving the nation’s health than focusing on individual patients.
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