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Role of community and public health nurses

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Role of Community and Public Health Nurses
The article ‘ Outbreak Investigations’ by Maria J Sistrom and Patty J Hale attempts to highlight the role of community and public health nurses in eliciting community participation in the early detection and control of disease outbreaks. The article presents the advantages of involving members of the community in an outbreak investigation as well as shows, through a case study, how the community and public health nurses (C/PHN) act as a conduit between the health department and the lay person during an outbreak. It also attempts to bring forth the responsibilities of a C/PHN in preventing and controlling the outbreak of diseases.
The article is pretty effective at convincing one of the merits of C/PHN and community participation in outbreak control. However, one of the biggest faults that one can associate with it is the fact that it draws from only one case to support its stand. While a true case might strengthen the point being argued in the article, only one instance cannot be considered as conclusive or even convincing evidence of any fact. Therefore, the authors would have done well to cite other such cases to support their viewpoint.
The article is pretty meticulous in the coverage of the functions of C/PHNs during an outbreak. It mentions their skills that are of utility, their flaws, precautions that need be taken, their responsibility as well as their place in the bigger picture. It also points out flaws in state regulations that exacerbate problems. However, an attempt to compare these to a system where all these flaws have been dealt with and the system functions smoothly (whether in the same country or elsewhere), would have made the concept seem far less utopian.
A mention of cases where the involvement of C/PHNs had actually helped control an outbreak without any significant damage to health and life would have made a far stronger case than one where their forced non-involvement made things worse.
Examining the relevance of the article to the community and public health nursing practice, one finds that it is only of moderate utility. While it does, in many instances help a C/PHN understand their responsibility and the importance of their role in outbreak prevention and control, it does not mention how their involvement can be increased to an optimum level. It also fails to explain how the existing system could be modified to make better use of the skills possessed by C/PHNs.
The article raises a lot of questions, highlights numerous points and contains a significant amount of data on the C/PHN practice. However, it fails to outline how these supposedly ‘ crucial’ individuals could better perform their functions and fulfill their duties to the community.
The role of the community itself as well as the prescribed level of its involvement during outbreaks has not been clearly delineated in the article, making it little more than a collection of mere facts and statistics. On the brighter side, the table on pages four and five help the reader gain a perspective of the big picture with the roles, functions and significance of C/PHNs and the community (during an outbreak) being adequately interrelated and explained to the reader.
References
Sistrom M G and Hale P J. (2006). Outbreak Investigations: Community Participation and the Role of Community and Public Health Nurses. Public Health Nursing Vol. 23, No. 3. p256 – 263. Blackwell Publishing Inc.

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