Community partners and healthcare leaders have long been coming together to help people gain better access to medical care and services. Healthcare workers at all levels, from nurse aids to Registered Nurses (RNs), practitioners and medical doctors, contribute to community healthcare access.
This article explores how healthcare staff, particularly healthcare leaders, work with community partners to enhance healthcare for all.
What is a community partner?
A community partner could be a non-profit agency, community, or neighborhood group, charity, business, government organization, or church. These partners often work with healthcare leaders to conduct outreach education, networking events, seminars, and more.
Community health centers are often formed when there is a clear need in an area for a clinic that offers basic primary, preventative, and urgent non-life-threatening care. Nonprofit groups, churches, and government services like health departments often provide valuable healthcare education to the public.
Health education and outreach
An educated community often equals better health overall for the population. It is important for there to be healthcare outreach in communities so that people are empowered to make good healthcare choices no matter their age. Community healthcare efforts to teach smart reproductive choices and birth control options is one common collaboration between various healthcare organizations and community partners.
Health education efforts inform the public about what types of services are available to them. Through these efforts, people can be connected with resources to help them apply for medical insurance and other benefits that can assist them in meeting their healthcare needs.
The elderly often faces challenges regarding healthcare and living independently. It is important that they know what resources are available to help them maintain an independent lifestyle for as long as possible. For example, some organizations may be able to help retrofit homes to be more handicap accessible or to help the elderly access these benefits via their health insurance plans. Additionally, community partners can help the elderly apply for benefits and get help if they are facing abuse or neglect.
Veterans service and outreach
Veterans typically experience a higher high rate of mental health issues, especially those who have been in combat or active war zones. In the US, a large population of aging veterans need significant care due to old injuries and mental health issues. Veterans’ administration hospitals and outreach groups work with various medical and mental health professionals to help veterans access the benefits and assistance they are entitled to as a condition of their service.
Applying for benefits can be confusing, frustrating, and time-consuming. Medical professionals work with volunteers and other outreach services to help veterans navigate application processes and obtain medical care and mental health services from veterans’ hospitals.
Nurse educators can help all people understand the importance of preventative care visits. While there is currently a lack of primary care providers in the US, this will hopefully change as more people enter the field of healthcare.
Getting started with a primary care provider is important for patients, even if it takes significant time to get an initial appointment. Talking with a provider about what appointments are important and making them well in advance will ensure that patients take their primary care seriously and do not delay because of lengthy waits.
Preventative care reduces healthcare costs and the likelihood that a condition becomes serious before it is discovered. Some illnesses and conditions can be eliminated or treated fairly easily if they are caught in the early stages.
Domestic violence and sexual assault outreach
Unfortunately, domestic violence is a major problem in some communities. Clinics and social services that cater to abused and neglected people play an important role in the health of a community. Survivors of domestic violence may need treatment for injuries as well as counseling services. Help with housing, financial resources, and finding employment may also be necessary in severe cases.
Victims of sexual assault need access to health exams and other care that they may be afraid to seek or entirely unaware of. The medical community working with non-profit organizations can help make it easier for victims to seek and receive the help they need to heal.
Finding ways to pay for healthcare costs
Unfortunately, healthcare costs are on the rise. Nursing educators and community groups need to help patients access available resources to help cover the costs that insurance does not cover. If a patient is uninsured, finding emergency coverage such as Medicaid can help alleviate some of the frustration and stress.
Non-profit agencies and other groups that can help out are a great resource. Keeping a list of resources and their criteria to give to others is a great idea for individuals partaking in community outreach healthcare education.
Offering better access to mental health resources
There is a very high demand for mental healthcare and counseling; at least partly due to the lack of access and fear of getting into trouble for seeking help related to substance abuse. Some mental health issues are related to physical problems that require medications, while plenty of others are manageable with the right combination of physical and mental care.
Psychiatric nurses and doctors can help community partners attempting to improve access to counseling, medications, and other valuable resources. In turn, the healthcare workers can inform patients they see of groups that can help them manage their mental health and learn to thrive.
What is a nurse educator?
A nurse educator is a fully qualified and licensed, highly experienced RN who educates others on a variety of healthcare topics. Educators often teach classes and answer health-related questions.
Working with many agencies and healthcare providers
A nurse educator may work with or for a government social service or health department to provide outreach education. Alternatively, they may work for a large hospital medical system and provide education outreach when needed to many agencies, community health centers, and more.
Working with MDs and FNPs to help vulnerable populations
Medical Doctors (MDs) and Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) often work with nurse educators. Nurse practitioners are increasingly finding employment at community health centers, drop-in appointment clinics, and urgent care centers. These nurses are helping bridge the gap in primary healthcare so people can get seen by a medical professional when they are experiencing a sudden illness or injury. This reduces how often people seek care at hospital emergency rooms for non-life-threatening yet urgent healthcare needs.
Helping people feel comfortable and trusting when seeking care
There are many reasons why people in some vulnerable or disadvantaged groups may avoid seeking healthcare, especially if they do not feel it is completely necessary as they are not currently ill or uncomfortable.
Developing a connection and gaining trust in vulnerable communities is something a nurse educator can really help with. It is particularly helpful if nurse educators speak a second language. In the US, speaking Spanish can go a long way toward providing better healthcare outreach services.
How community health projects start and evolve
Addressing community healthcare needs is a process, as there are so many factors involved. Here are some steps that community partners and healthcare workers take when embarking on a journey to improve healthcare access in a community.
Fully assess needs
It is important to make a full assessment of what healthcare resources are available in an area and what is within a reasonable distance. Comparing this to the population number and the demographics of an area can offer insight into the biggest gaps in healthcare services.
Identify vulnerable members of the community
Researching and compiling information about the demographics of an area is important to understanding the factors that may be contributing to poor healthcare access or creating a fear of seeking care unless an illness is very serious.
Of course, official demographics may not tell the whole story. Recent arrivals to the US who do not speak English well are a good example of a population that doesn’t always show up on official statistics. This is why it is so important to network and speak with community leaders who have first-hand knowledge that can be used in conjunction with official data.
Asses rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, and teen or unplanned pregnancy
Knowing some of the common healthcare and social problems can help community partners and healthcare workers tailor their efforts. For example, an area with high rates of drug and alcohol abuse might need support services as well as treatment centers that offer both in-patient and outpatient services for those struggling with addiction.
High teen or unplanned pregnancy rates indicate a need for better information regarding family planning and better access to birth control methods.
Identify social inequities
High rates of poverty, single-parent homes, and more can all be social inequities that contribute to poor access to healthcare. Identifying any inequities is important in any community health initiative.
Determine ultimate goals
Is the goal to reduce the number of people without a primary care provider and regular preventative care visits? Does the area need a walk-in clinic to make up for gaps in healthcare and reduce emergency room visits? Are community partners most interested in offering better substance abuse treatment and resources?
Having clear goals helps keep everyone on the right path. Sometimes, it is easier to solve one problem at a time or find a solution that might solve a few problems but not all. Trying to solve all the issues in a community at once can lead to frustration and delays. Nonetheless, nurse educators can see that these goals are worked towards for the benefit of the community, ultimately improving the lives of many disadvantaged individuals.
Becoming a nurse educator
Becoming a nurse educator is a smart career move for anyone who enjoys teaching and helping others. To qualify for nurse educator positions, individuals must follow some specific steps.
First, they need to get a degree and earn an RN license. After this, they will need to gain experience in the field. Some nurse educator programs may look more favorably on applications from nurses with at least a few years of experience to build on.
Cleveland State University offers an online Masters Nursing Education program for working professionals to get their degree in just two years part-time. Clinical placements, of course, must be completed in person. After completing the classes and 500 clinical hours, students will be ready to take and pass the Certification for Nurse Educators (CNE) exam from the National League for Nursing (NLN).
Hone communication skills
A large part of teaching is being able to communicate clearly and effectively. Even individuals who are considered fairly well-spoken should take time to improve their communication skills to reach their students better. Public speaking classes and groups such as Toastmasters can help prospective nurse educators improve skills when addressing a large group of people.
A large proportion of communication is in written form such as text messaging, chats, and emails. So even though verbal skills are important, written communication skills are still key when communicating with students and colleagues alike.
Take any opportunity to teach others
Practicing teaching skills is something nurse educators can do at every step of their career. If there are times when they can help with training or mentoring at a medical facility, a nurse interested in the educator career path should get involved whenever time allows for it.
Other opportunities to learn teaching skills include volunteering at non-profit organizations or charity groups. Even teaching something as simple as an art class or hobby will help make an individual a better nurse educator when the time comes.
There are a ton of networking opportunities that nurses can take advantage of online and in person. While LinkedIn and other popular sites are a good start, nurses should attempt to reach out to branches of professional societies too.
Online and in-person medical conferences and seminars should become part of the professional routine. Attending online seminars and conferences is great if nurses are really busy or cannot travel. Occasionally, however, they should take the time to attend something in person because there is nothing like live interaction when it comes to meeting potential friends and colleagues.
Careers for nurse educators
Nurse educators can work in numerous facilities that provide community healthcare and outreach services.
Hospitals are heavily involved in community health. Emergency rooms see a lot of cases where it is clear that preventative or access to primary care would have led to a better outcome for all.
Hospitals have increasingly offered cultural awareness training for employees in addition to making sure there is greater diversity among healthcare staff to increase the comfort level of all those in a community. Ensuring that staff members who speak the most common secondary languages in an area are available is also important to creating a trusting environment for those who may be hesitant to seek care.
Community clinics and health centers
Outreach clinics and healthcare centers play a major role in offering on-demand care for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in a community. Community health centers offer many educational resources to improve the health of a community. For example, there may be cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first-aid, infant CPR, and childcare classes offered periodically by a nurse educator.
Community clinics often offer a sliding scale fee system to help those who are uninsured get care when they need it most. In addition, a community clinic may offer help for those who want to explore what health insurance options they have and receive assistance applying.
Nursing colleges and universities
Of course, nurse educators have plenty of opportunities to find employment within the college system itself. Teaching college-level courses, first-aid and CPR, and certificate programs for working nurses and other healthcare professionals are all options.
Colleges and universities are sometimes involved in community healthcare outreach too, by placing student nurses at clinics or organizing community service efforts that benefit community health.
Community health outreach is important for helping disadvantaged people find and receive the healthcare they need to stay healthy. Community outreach is especially helpful in rural areas where access to healthcare is lacking.
Nurse educators play a major role in helping educate communities about important health issues that affect them and their loved ones. In addition, educators are a great resource for community partners who want to plan, organize, and execute community health projects.
Becoming a nurse educator is a great way for individuals to play a major role in improving access to healthcare in vulnerable communities. In addition, they can help train the next generation of nurses to be invaluable assets to the medical community at all levels of the medical system.