Jul 31 2013
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Recommended Reading: ‘Day in the Life’ of Public Health Nurses

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Human Capital portfolio’s blog, a forum for discussion about the challenges of building a diverse, well-trained health care workforce, features a “Day in the Life” series this week featuring public health nurses. With their own words, these nurses talk not just about what they do, but why they do it—the importance and meaning of their efforts.

Anneleen Severynen, RN, MN, PHN Anneleen Severynen, RN, MN, PHN

For Anneleen Severynen, RN, MN, PHN, of the South King County Mobile Medical Unit for Public Health Seattle and King County in Washington State, it’s about being able to help one person at a time. Anneleen wrote about Charlie, a 60-year-old Native American man who started drinking at the age of 12, bounced around foster homes, returned from service in Vietnam hurting even more, and now calls himself a “lost cause” who expects to drink himself to death.

“As I sat silently, I listened to him grieve the loss of his culture and detail the many kinds of discrimination he has suffered. Though he spoke with the slurred speech of a chronic alcoholic, his eloquence moved me. I noticed tears in his eyes as he described a few happy childhood memories with his father—memories not quite lost to him.”

By helping him to open up she was also able to get Charlie to agree to a few medical tests. He was given a prescription for high blood pressure. She doesn’t know whether he’ll follow through, but she knows that because she took the time to listen, he now has a better chance.

“Every day I get the chance to make a difference in people’s lives, and to help them know that they matter. I can help one person at a time make small choices that will improve their lives and health. As long as there is someone to hear their stories, there are no lost causes.”

Cassandra Standifer, BSN, PHN-NFP Cassandra Standifer, BSN, PHN-NFP

For Cassandra Standifer, BSN, PHN-NFP, who works in the Nurse Family Partnership program in Renton, Wash., it’s about being a part of positive change. Because of her own life experiences—only 7 years old, living with her mother and sister in transitional housing, hoping this time her mother could quit her cocaine addiction—she knows how love and support can help a person pull themselves up and out of a bad situation. As she listened to a teen mom excitedly celebrating her daughter’s clean bill of health from a recent dentist visit, she thought back to those days.

“I remembered that when my sister and I were finally removed from my mother’s care because she couldn’t stay clean, I went to the dentist for the first time at the age of nine, and had eleven cavities!  My sister and I eventually received the care we needed, and when we did, it came from public health.”

And that’s what she carries with her every day—a strong desire to help people and give back however she can.

“I stay in public health because I believe in the power it has to effect change in the community.  I am attuned to this because of how it effected change in my own life. When I relate to my clients, I relate as one WIC mom to another.”

>>Read more about public health nursing.

Tags: Access to Health Care, Community Health, Nurses, Public Health Departments, Public health agencies, Recommended Reading