This situation has highlighted the importance of educating future nurses about community, public and population health concepts and practices; nurses educated at every academic level should be competent and confident in the care of individuals and the public during disaster situations, including pandemics. A better understanding of the way illness can impact the global population was effortlessly applied to the lived situation experienced during this global pandemic. What better time is there than now to assure that the community/public health course curriculum in your program provides the opportunity for students to meet necessary competencies related to population health nursing? This article suggests activities for undergraduate nursing programs to assist all faculty in broadening the application of population health competencies.
In 2019, the Future of Nursing Campaign for Action in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the AARP Foundation, released a report entitled, “Nursing Education and the Path to Population Health Improvement” (FON, 2019). This profound and timely report should be used to shape the future of nursing education and improve students’ understanding of population health concepts. The research team for this Future of Nursing study consisted of nursing and public health leaders; in the study, nursing programs that were found to successfully target population health competencies in their curriculum across the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs were surveyed and visited to determine best practices (FON, 2019).
Population health competencies
The report identified foundational population health competencies that included knowledge of the following:
- Health policy
- Determinants of health
- Health equity
- Collaborating with other disciplines
- Health care economics
- Systems thinking (FON, 2019)
While many of these areas are broad and are addressed in various nursing courses to some degree, often the population health perspective of these objectives are left for the community/public/population health faculty to cover; however, the competencies should be incorporated throughout the undergraduate nursing curriculum (FON, 2019).
Key content areas
The report identified key areas of content that should be included in nursing courses at every academic level:
- Determinants of health
- Interventions that improve current issues identified in the population
- Interprofessional collaboration within the community and with other healthcare providers
- Systems approaches
- Utilizing community and population data to improve health (FON, 2019)
These topics should also be integrated into every course, not just the community/public/population health courses (FON, 2019).
Undergraduate nursing education examples
It is important for undergraduate nurses to understand the importance of population health concepts, including continuity of care, from the beginning of the nursing program. Faculty members with population health expertise can work with other faculty to determine ways to incorporate population health concepts into their courses. Examples of approaches for this integration include the following: