Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care is planning to increase spending on health care at home and in clinics. Some of that care will be delivered by community health nurses. The government’s goals are outlined in “Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care”. What does this mean for patients and nurses?
McMaster nursing student Boey Chak is the Community and Public Health Committee Chair for the Canadian Nursing Students Association (CNSA). Here, she weighs in on the future of community nursing in Ontario.
Q: The government is planning to provide more health care in home and community settings, as opposed to hospitals. What will this mean for patients?
The news is very exciting because this means that the government will be investing in health to better manage chronic illness. The goal is to work towards more funding for primary health care to prevent people from going to hospitals in the first place.
Q: What will this mean for nurses?
As future nurses, we have an important role in community health because our clinical decision-making skills and practice in developing therapeutic relationships allows us to help patients identify their health goals and support them in making healthy lifestyle changes. For example, nurses who work at safe needle exchange clinics understand that addiction is a complex health issue and that many barriers prevent patients from attaining sobriety. By providing a non-judgmental space for people to safely use drugs with clean needles, nurses can prevent drug overdoses, encourage access to drug treatment, reduce the transmission of blood borne viruses, and provide other health and welfare resources. I can see myself working as a mental health and addictions nurse in the future because I really support the idea that patients best understand their lives and enjoy working with people to attain their goals.
Q: You recently attended a conference put on by The Community Health Nurses of Canada (CHNC) conference. Could you tell me about that?
The conference was held in St. John's, Newfoundland from May 30 to June 1st and the theme was "Making Connections." I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to attend this conference because I really was able to make connections and learn more about the different opportunities available in community health nursing! For example, I attended a workshop about Nurse-Family Partnerships (NFP), a nursing home-visitation for young mothers with low income, and learned that the program was being piloted right here in Hamilton by McMaster. After attending the conference, I learned that a research project on the development of an international collaborative approach for NFP implementation was available as a placement formy research course (HTH SCI 4NR3). It was pretty amazing to then assist with the project under the supervision of a Canadian nurse researcher. The conference not only opened my eyes to advancements in community health nursing research, but also possibilities in advocacy as a student. For example, I met board members of the CHNC at the conference and I learned that student positions were available on the board. I am looking forward to being part of the board in September as a studentliaisonand participate in the Standards and Competencies committee to influence community health education in the nursing curriculum.
Q: How did you get interested in community nursing?
I work at Shalom Village, a retirement home in Westdale, and volunteer at the North Hamilton Community Health Centre. That’s where I gained experience working with people in the community. I just saw how important it was to have nurses care for people in the community and build that relationship with people in order to provide competent care, because a lot of it is about the relationships. Once people open up to you, you’re able to provide more care and provide them with more resources.
Q: You are also involved in the Canadian Nursing Students Association. What is your role there?
I’m the Community and Public Health Committee Chair and my role is to disseminate information and opportunities related to community health and public health, and advocate for its inclusion in the nursing curriculum. I also represent students on the CHNC Board, the Canadian Health Students Alliance, and I work closely with the CNSA Executive Committee and other board members. We are currently addressing student concerns regarding the NCLEX-RN licensing exam and running an educational campaign about how this exam may affect graduating students.
For more information about NCLEX-RN, see NCLEX-RN Fact sheet and NCLEX Briefing note.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about community nursing?
I just really want to encourage other nursing students to be more involved in community health because it’s such an important area of nursing. There is a misconception that community health and public nursing is less skilled than acute or hospital nursing but really, it’s just the same nursing skills in a different context. We are still using our critical thinking and health sciences background to support patients in meeting their maximum potential. Nursing is an extremely humbling and rewarding profession and there are so many ways to do good in our communities, I encourage everyone to give it a try!
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