Four friends standing together on an overlook during a hiking adventure
HealthJuly 27, 2021

Inspiring nursing students to care about community health

By: Heather Swift, MSN, RN
“It’s not on the NCLEX®.” “I’m not going to be a public health nurse.” “There are not any skills used in community health.” “It's boring.”

What community health professor has not heard one or all the above? I know for me; I’ve heard it all. It is discouraging and so very incorrect. How can educators encourage nursing students to care about community health?

A person’s community impacts a client’s overall health by up to 80%. That alone makes community health one of the most essential nursing courses for a student. It involves personal safety, education level, access to housing, childcare, steady employment, healthy foods, and transportation, to name a few. Add the epidemic of systemic racism, healthcare coverage, medical debt, increase in technology, and the global pandemic, and that makes a jam-packed course full of remarkably interesting and relevant content.

How can we change a nursing student’s outlook on community health?

Simple, by adding more active learning experiences (ALE) for the students. The ALE listed below are not usually an additional cost to the student or university and are to be used in addition to a clinical rotation, another reason to adopt and help get the word out on how vital community health is.

Integrating social determinants of health into nursing courses

  • Tie pediatrics in with community health. Have the students participate in school flu shot clinics, attend a head start program to visualize all the developmental stages, participate in foster or immigrant children physicals with the local health department.
  • Complete a windshield survey utilizing public transportation, have the students identify a public health concern from those findings, and then educate the community.
  • Have students role-play an elderly man or woman with a chronic health condition on a fixed income, with only social security who cannot drive. In their role play, they need to meal plan for a week, according to their health condition, budget, and take public transportation.
  • Bring a current news story to class for discussion, whether regarding vaccine distribution, inequality of healthcare services, Covid tracing, or an increase in lead levels in elementary-aged children. Bringing to light current events shows the students just how important community health is!
  • Movie or TV show self-reflection - there are many, many movies and television shows relevant to community health to explore. Ones that I have used are Miss Evers’ Boys, Crash, Contagion, John Q, Wit, My Sister’s Keeper, 7 pounds, Sicko, many PBS specials, Greys Anatomy, Chicago Med, New Amsterdam, and more. TV shows are specific to episodes and both require a set of questions to guide the reflection.

The end goal here is to get nursing students excited about providing population-based health promotion. It directly coincides with hospital-based nursing discharge planning and continuity of care. With the abundance of resources and the current health status of the world, what better time than now to incorporate a course full of active learning strategies.

Ensure your nursing graduates understand the multifaceted nature of community, public, and population health and are consistently exposed to diverse settings, situations, and populations. Request a demo of Lippincott Clinical Experiences.

Request a Demo of Lippincott Clinical Experiences
Heather Swift, MSN, RN
Expert Insights Contributor for Wolters Kluwer, Nursing Education
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