The need to focus on public health nursing by Wendy J Nicholson, Department of Health 
Public Health Nursing 
Professional Officer – School and Community Nursing. Twitter @WendyJNicholson

The next EBN TWITTER journal chat will take place on Wednesday 23rd July 2014 8-9 pm (UK time) and focus on public health nursing challenges and roles. Before joining in the Twitter Chat you might like to read the associated Blog


Over the last few years we have been fortunate to work with a number of young people who are clearly considering their career pathways – few had even thought about nursing, those that had told me they wanted the drama and excitement of A&E, ITU and theatre, sadly public health nursing wasn’t on their radar. Nothing new you might be thinking, the media stereotypes of nursing really haven’t changed and there is still an overwhelming emphasis on ‘hospitals’.   There is a desire to shift care closer to local communities and to empower individuals to self-manage but can we achieve this with a substantial focus on hospitals or ‘acute’ care? Perhaps the starting point is to challenge the misconceptions –acute care IS provided at home, in local communities and we can avoid hospital admissions, crisis intervention through early support and public health interventions. Supporting individuals at home, in local communities requires skills, expertise and confidence – so why do public health nurses not get the same profile as nurses working in hospital settings? And why can’t we have more creative and community approaches to delivery?

Given the challenges we face as a society care and approaches to population health need to change. We are seeing an increase in long-term conditions, mental health issues and obesity across the life course. It seems timely to focus on public health nursing and their incredible contribution to improving health outcomes and population health.

Public health nursing contribution

Without a doubt the Health Visitor Implementation plan and School Nurse Development plan has led to a focus on the importance of public health nursing input for children, young people and families. We know support during the early years and throughout childhood is incredibility important as it lays down the foundations for healthy individuals and supports the development of healthy communities in the long term. Health visitors and school nurses deal with a myriad of complexities within families and local communities, which draws upon their specialist public health skills and leadership role.

Support and the need to improve health outcomes is not restricted to childhood, consideration needs to be given to support across the whole life course. It’s worth noting there were 300 million GP consultations in 2008/9. General practice nurses are well placed to support those individuals and provide personalised care thus promoting self-care and avoiding un-necessary hospital admissions. The general practice nurse role can have a far reaching community role, supporting individuals and local communities across the life course.

The new and emerging Public Health Nursing Framework was launched recently, it provides a comprehensive framework to support nurses and AHPs in their public health role. It is clear in that ALL nurses have a public health role, with this in mind nurses really do need to ensure they make every contact count and maximise opportunities regardless of the setting!


Questions for the #EBNJC

We know nurses have incredible reach across a variety of communities and settings, we therefore need to harness their skills to ensure every contact counts for every individual or local community there is without a doubt opportunities to really make a difference but perhaps we need to consider:

  • Can we shift the emphasis from hospital to self-care and public health interventions?
  • How do we maintain the re-address the balance and promote the importance of public health?
  • Do all nurses recognise their public health role?
  • Is there a need for more training and support for nurses to realise their potential in public health delivery?

Participating in the EBN Twitter Journal Chat

To participate in the EBN twitter chat, if you do not already have one, you require a Twitter account; you can create an account at Once you have a Twitter account contributing is straightforward:

  • You can follow the discussion by searching for links to #ebnjc or @EBNursingBMJ in Twitter
  • Or contribute to the discussion by sending a tweet starting with @EBNursingBMJ and ending with #ebnjc (the EBN chat hashtag).
  • NB not including #ebnjc means people following the chat won’t be able to see your contribution.

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