As we close out the last week of National Nurses Month, it brings us to the final focus, community engagement.
“Community engagement is defined as the process of working collaboratively with and through groups of people affiliated by geographic proximity, special interest, or similar situations to address issues affecting the wellbeing of those people. It is a powerful vehicle for bringing about environmental and behavioral changes that will improve the health of the community and its members.”
As nurse leaders and educators, we are in a unique position to encourage and influence our nurses to become involved in their communities. Nurses can make an invaluable impact on those around them, whether it be formally or informally.
Community engagement can be accomplished in various ways. It can take place in-person or virtually, it can be on a local level or national level. Remember, we all belong to various “communities” at any given time. We have communities at work, where we live, go to school, or worship, etc. The engagement arenas and possibilities are endless!
Informal and formal methods for engagement
Every day conversations
Nurses can informally share their knowledge through casual conversations with friends and family on important topics near and dear to their hearts, like injury prevention or cancer prevention. Social media can even serve as a vehicle to share knowledge and educate those with whom we virtually connect.
Volunteering in the community
Another avenue for engagement can be found through volunteering and performing health screenings or vaccinations at local community events or participating in blood drives. Engaging in the community doesn’t always have to be about providing healthcare services. It can be accomplished by checking in on older adults living alone, helping at the local food bank, or taking part in a clothing drive.
Shaping public health policy
Joining a national nursing organization provides nurses with a variety of opportunities to have a collective voice and become involved in health policy and advocacy. Meetings with legislators, serving on political action committees, or even phone calls and letter writing to elected representatives are a few ways that national organizations can help impact and improve healthcare policy on a larger scale. Many national nursing organizations also have smaller state chapters which can provide a more targeted approach to shaping nursing policy at the state or even community level.
How can you learn to shape health policy?
- Understand how policy is made.
- Explore who makes policy at your workplace and in your community.
- Think about which health policies matter most to you.
- Research which legislators support policies that are of interest to you.
- Write to your legislator about issues that impact patient care.
- Tell colleagues about opportunities to influence policy change.
- Join organizations that lobby on behalf of patients or nurses.
Nurse leaders and educators can influence their staff and serve as the best example on how to engage with the communities around them. Community involvement and engagement comes in many different forms, big or small, formal, or informal. Most of all, being involved in the community can boost one’s self-esteem and gives a greater sense of self-worth and purpose. Share your knowledge of resources, health policies, and related laws, and encourage our nurses to join professional nursing associations. Don’t let this last week go by without spreading the word on how nurses can use their power, knowledge, and voices to make their communities a better place!