Nov 19, 2014, 11:39 AM
Today at the American Public Health Association annual meeting in New Orleans, Shirley Orr, MHS, APRN, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow and public health consultant, and Doris Brown of the Louisiana Department of Health, will be talking about opportunities for nursing leaders to implement the recommendations of a 2010 Institute of Medicine Report entitled “The Future of Nursing.” This report looks at ways that the nursing profession can transform itself in order to better align with population health and more effectively collaborate to create a healthier overall population.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Orr about how nurses can help improve community and population health. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
NewPublicHealth: What does the nursing profession need to do in order to align itself with a focus on population health?
Shirley Orr: A couple of things in particular that stand out are education and diversity. We recently did a public health nursing enumeration that was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and we found two things in particular relating to the recommendations. First, that overall, public health nurses need new skills and they need higher levels of education to be able to function more collaboratively and within collaborations—both within health care and with other community partners.
Second, we found that nationwide, the demographic profile of public health nurses does not look like the population that we serve. Ethnic minorities are very much underrepresented among public health nursing—particularly in leadership roles.
We have a very urgent need to recruit more nurses of color into the ranks of public health nursing leadership.
NPH: Why is that necessary?
Orr: A core component of nursing curriculum today is culture competency. That being said, we also know that having nurses who understand populations very, very deeply by having a frame of reference for that population and being a member of that population really are able to help to get the highest level of engagement from the population. They’re also best prepared to understand the culture, the needs, the motivations about populations, so they’re really best positioned to be able to carry out in partnership strategies that are going to make a difference long-term in the health of populations.