Nursing is all about that smile you see on someone’s face and the gratitude you see in their eyes when you help them during some of their most helpless times. As a community health nurse, you get a chance to help a lot of people, especially those who are deprived of getting premium healthcare. Serving the underserved is one of the most satisfying things of your nursing career because not only you help someone in need, you step closer to being a better nurse, having a fulfilling career, and more importantly, a better human being.

Who Are The Underserved?

There are geographic areas where the reach of primary health care falls short. These areas have a shortage of qualified and experienced health professionals. The people living in these areas are mostly categorized below the poverty line. They also belong to a minority community and are at an elevated risk of health and medical conditions like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and higher infant mortality rate. Facing a lot of financial and cultural disadvantages, underserved communities require special care and awareness of a healthy lifestyle.

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According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources Administration (HRSA), the underserved are categorized into:

  • Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs): They are areas where the number of primary health care services for residents is less than required. Geographically, MUA could be a province, state, country, or a group of neighboring countries.
  • Medically Underserved Populations (MUPs): MUPs are specific groups within the residents of a geographic area who face a shortage of primary health care services. MUPs could be unemployed, homeless, minority groups, and anyone who falls under the eligibility for MUP designation set by the Index of Medical Underservice (IMU). As per HRSA, an area or population with an IMU of 62 or below is categorized as an MUA or MUP.

Before you plan to work as a community health nurse in such areas, you need to understand certain aspects like the skillset, people you deal with, and the mode of doing work.

How Is A Community Health Nurse Different From A Public Nurse?

While a public health nurse focuses on the health status of the general population, a community health nurse works more on a localized level. Community health nurses prioritize their work on specific groups of people like families, communal groups, or minorities. Their works include the promotion of a healthier lifestyle among these groups plus reaching out to individuals who do not have access to proper healthcare.

Being a community health nurse requires a strong drive and passion for working with those who need your help, at the same time, have an understanding of self-care. Apart from this, it works better if nurses are willing to make a good emotional connection with the patients.

Understanding the Underserved

While working as a community health nurse, one’s approach should be very different. While working in the underserved areas, especially in small townships, the social circle of the residents is considerably small. Everyone knows everyone in such areas and they prefer knowing their healthcare professionals on a more personal level. This might feel odd to some professionals who are not used to such interactions. On the other hand, it’s very easy for the underserved population to misconstrue a nurse’s care as a desire to have a more personal relationship. The trick is to maintain the perfect balance between personal and professional attachment with your patients.

It’s always advised to learn more about the cultural nuances of the underserved areas and their population before you visit the place so that you can have better interactions with your patients. It helps you to have more rooted conversations so that you can understand their needs and medical requirements on a deeper level. This also enables you to address the health issues persisting in the area and understand what made it underserved in the first place.

Language Barrier

The people living in the underserved areas might not use English as their primary or even secondary language. For example, there are sections in Arizona who speak Navajo and there are Spanish speaking communities residing in Florida. The language barrier might create a hindrance to your work while working with the population, especially with older people. It’s always better to learn the basics of the language as part of your preparation. This makes your communication with your patients clearer and it also helps you to grasp their culture more quickly.

Promoting Health

A nurse should understand the fact that it’s not the duty of just a government official to create health awareness among the underserved communities. Many of these areas are at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder and most of the population have their own culture, lifestyle, and their own system of medicines and treatment. Convincing them to divert to the contemporary system of health is not as easy as its sound but it’s very essential. After understanding the culture and the people, you can reach out to the underserved population on a personal level and help them understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

No Judgements

Due to various reasons, the underserved does not enjoy many social benefits like the general population. They might be unemployed, poor, or less educated. They might not adhere to a nurse’s instructions strictly simply because they do not understand its importance. As a nurse, it’s your duty not to be judgemental on their attitude or lifestyle. With a little effort, you can understand their status and situation and that makes your connection with the patient stronger. Experts say it’s better to learn a little about human psychology and mental health to approach the underserved population.

Sharing Experiences

It’s helpful to find and reach out to other nurses who are in a similar line of work. Listening to their stories will help you get a better insight into your own experiences. You can share your experiences too and get advice from them on dealing with tough populations or situations. In addition, these interactions are really helpful for you to grow on a personal and professional level.

Become A Community Health Nurse

Being a community health nurse requires a lot of preparation, patience, and perseverance. A degree from institutions like Labouré College is the first step on the road to a successful nursing career. They offer flexible, affordable degree programs that can help you reach your goals.