Running Head: THE ROLE OF THE PROFESSIONAL NURSE The Role of the Professional Nurse in Health Promotion and Protection in Communities University of Missouri, St. Louis Introduction: Health Promotion and Health Protection Defined There are many different definitions of health promotion and protection and all of them sound fairly similar. Pender (2006) describes health promotion as a behavior motivated by the desire to increase well being and actualize human health potential and describes health protection as behavior motivated by the desire to actively avoid illness, detect it early, or maintain functioning within the constraints of illness.

Using these definitions makes it simple to tell the difference between the two: it is all about the motivation behind the behavior. The purpose of this paper is to describe the role of the professional nurse in health promotion and protection in a community. Community Defined To understand the role of the nurse in a community we first have to understand what a community is. A community can be used in various context and have many different meanings depending on the frame of reference.

Edelman and Mandle (2006) quote the same definition used by Healthy People 2010: “A specific group of people, often living in a defined geographical area, who share a common culture, values, and norms and who arranged in a social structure according to relationships that community has developed over a period of time” (pp. 179). Plainly stated this means a community is any group or population of people that are bonded together by some common denominator. The Role of the Professional Nurse A nurse can serve many different functions when it comes to health promotion and protection.

When discussed, health promotion and protection are usually paired together although the concept of each is a little different. Health protection is something that people engage in on an individual basis to protect their health due to there own health/family history and health promotion is more of broader concept that can incorporate individuals and groups (Stanhope and Lancaster, 2008). It is most often easier for us to understand the role of the nurse in health protection because nurses are thought of traditionally as healers and teachers.

When using Pender’s (2006) definition of health protection, the role of the nurse is obvious; nurse’s care for those who are sick and teach them how to live within the constraints of their illness; all the while encouraging activities to help avoid other illnesses that may be associated with their current diagnosis. For example, nurses teach communities about the risk of heart attack and ways to avoid them with proper diet and exercise. They also teach of the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack and how important early care is.

If someone has a heart attack and presents to the hospital the nurse provides immediate physical and emotional care and then continues her care by collaborating with the patient to form a plan of recovery care. Health promotion itself acknowledges that people are not always accountable for their own health status, and that there are external elements that are in play. Such elements might be socioeconomic status, environmental factors and genetics (Whitehead, 2004). Health promotion behaviors are a little easier to define in general because they can encompass all the same behaviors as health protection but they have “no strings attached. Meaning that health promotion behaviors do not have a negative driving force. They are not performed in order to avoid illness; they are simply done to “actualize human potential” (Pender, 2006). The nurse’s role in health promotion can be independent, following the nursing process of assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation and evaluation; interdependent, collaborating with the community to form critical interdisciplinary teamwork; or dependent, helping to implement the plans of the team members.

The nurse’s concerns should reflect the community’s responses to existing or potential health problems (Edelman and Mandle, 2006). The role can be personal, involving individual teaching regarding health promotion behaviors, but is usually broader, involving large groups or even government and policy changes. Stanhope and Lancaster (2008) gives an example of the nurse working with a school to promote healthy lunches. They may first educate the school personnel regarding healthy lunches and then work with the community leaders and citizens to establish nutrition education in the school and the community.

Community of Franklin County Heart disease is the number one cause of mortality for Franklin County residents. Heart disease is also the number one cause of mortality for the state of Missouri as well as the rest of the nation. Franklin County residents have a higher incidence of heart disease compared to the rest of the state (Department of Health and Senior Services, 2008). In order to make Franklin County a healthier community teaching needs to be done regarding heart disease: ways to prevent it as well as ways to protect those at risk.

Although some risk factors for heart disease are not modifiable such as genetics, there are many things that people can do to reduce their risk. The American Heart Association describes the ABC’s of preventing heart disease: Avoid tobacco, Be more active and Choose good nutrition (American Heart Association, 2009). Following these seemingly simple steps can reduce your risk. Even though there may be widespread publicity and knowledge regarding these prevention strategies, personal attention paid to those who are already at high risk may reduce the number of deaths attributed to heart disease.

Health Promotion and Protection in my Practice Working with a pregnant population gives a number of opportunities to discuss health promotion and protection. Often pregnant women are more open to engaging in health promoting and protecting behaviors because fetal health starts with the mother’s choices to be healthy. Health promotion starts with the first prenatal appointment where they receive not only regular prenatal screening but teaching is started regarding behaviors that promote the health of the pregnant woman and the fetus.

Smoking cessation is a big teaching point, not only for the mother but for the family as well. Physician’s office’s today are more aware of taking care of the family as a whole and that smoking cessation should be discussed with the mother as well as those in the household. This is where health promotion and protection can sometimes be blurred; the mother can be promoting her health while protecting the health of her unborn child. It is after all, all about motivation. After birthing, a mother requires teaching regarding proper management of postpartum care as well as proper newborn care.

New mothers are not only in charge of their own health but the infant’s as well. Nurses in my practice encourage health promotion by encouraging breast-feeding and health protection by endorsing immunizations. Conclusion Whether a nurse is promoting or protecting community health she/he rarely works alone. It sometimes takes a collaboration of professional or community representatives to make changes in the community (Edelman and Mandle, 2006). While individual changes are a step toward community health, empowering the community to make a universal change will in turn build a stronger, healthier community.

Sometimes all a community needs is some direction. Nurses are an integral part of inspiring that direction. References American Heart Association. (2009). ABCs of preventing heart disease. Retrieved on July 1, 2009 from http://www. americanheart. org/presenter. jhtml? identifier=3035374 Department of Health and Senior Services. (2008). Leading cause of death profile for Franklin County residents. Retrieved on April 11, 2009 from http://www. dhss. mo. gov/ASPsDeath/Main. php? cnty=071 Edelman, C. and Mandle, C. 2006). Health promotion throughout the life span. (6th edition)  St. Louis, MO:  Mosby, Inc. Pender, N. J. , Murdaugh, C. L. , & Parsons, M. A. , (2006). Health promotion in nursing practice. (5th ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Stanhope, M. , & Lancaster, J. , (2008). Public health nursing: population-centered health care in the community. (7th ed. ). St. Louis, MO: Mosby, Inc. Whitehead, D. , (2004). Health promoting hospitals: The role and function of nursing. Journal of Clinical nursing, 14(1), 20-27.