by Susan Sanders, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Learning & Innovation Officer, CGFNS International
Community Engagement: The Whys and What’s for Nurses
The final emphasis during Nurses’ Month 2022 is dedicated to Community Engagement. You may ask “why is community engagement important in nursing”? Multiple reasons can be identified, and include better health outcomes, promotion of preventive care, reduced hospital visits, and thus reduced costs. You may also question “what is community engagement”? The CDC (1997) defines it as “the process of working collaboratively with and through groups of people affiliated by geographic proximity, special interest, or similar situations to address issues affecting the well-being of those people” (p 9). This allows for the community to accomplish goals such as building trust, enlisting new resources, creating better communication, and collaboration that results in overall improved health outcomes. (CDC, 1997; Shore, 2006; Wallerstein, 2002). This collaboration can help bring about environmental and behavioral changes within a community and its members.
Community Engagement: Nurses Are a Natural
McCollum, Kovner and Ojement conducted a survey (2017) of 315 nurses. They found eighty percent are working to improve their community’s health beyond their traditional health care setting. Some of the nurses use their medical knowledge to promote community health, others participate in health screening at specific events. There are also opportunities for nurses to impact the health of their neighbors through individual acts such as checking on the elderly, serving on boards/committees, organizing fundraising events, etc.
Give Yourself Credit for Helping Your Community
Despite all the activities performed by nurses on a voluntary basis, they don’t often give themselves credit for these contributions. We often think volunteering isn’t doing much, and the impact on our friends, neighbors and community are just part of being “us”. For nurses, it’s “just what we do”!
So how can we emphasize the importance of all our voluntary efforts? First off, take pride in your own volunteer efforts! Support your colleagues and what they are doing in their communities. Your talents go well beyond providing care. You are a people manager, logistics expert, procurement specialist, therapist, cheerleader and so much more! Share your story and advocate for your profession. Nominate each other for boards, run for office and generally appreciate and value other nurses.
It all comes down to working together, in whatever form your community takes. We are members of multiple communities and groups in our lives. Where we live, where we work, where we worship, where our children go to school. All communities would benefit from our participation and the sharing of our knowledge and abilities. Community engagement benefits all, the recipients plus the volunteers. Won’t you join in?
Fishman, N. (2017). How nurses are caring for their communities. Culture of Health Blog, Robert Wood Johnson, retrieved 4-5-22 from https://www.rwjf.org/en/blog/2017/05/how-nurses-are-caring-for-their-communities.html
McCloskey, D., McDonald, M.A., Cook, J., Heurtin-Robers, S., Updegrove, S., Sampson, D., Gutter, S., Eder, M. (1997). Community Engagement: Definitions and Organizing Concepts from the Literature, Chapter 1 in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Principles of Community Engagement (1st ed ) Atlanta (GA): CDC/ATSDR Committee on Community Engagement; 1997.
McCollum, M., Kovner, C., Ojement, M. (2017). Nurses improve their communities’ health where they live, learn, work and play. Sage Journal. Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice, retrieved 4-4-22 from https://doi.org/10.1177/1527154417698142