Purpose and Mission
Community health nurses are employed all across Australia providing health education and a range of nursing services to individuals and families in many different settings. These healthcare professionals work with people from many different cultures and backgrounds, including indigenous people. Community nurses often work in remote and/or medically underserved areas, and perform a broad variety of nursing tasks (some not typically performed by nurses) depending on the context.
Of note, community health nurses tend to work in rural, remote or indigent communities, and are often employed by state or local government agencies. This means they typically work quite independently, but in most cases do report to a community nurse supervisor or other mid-level healthcare administrator.
Given that community nurses are often the only public health provider in the area, they typically oversee the clinic or healthcare facility they work at (with some exceptions), including training and evaluating nursing assistants and the like. Some community health nurses eventually move up into management roles or decide to become nurse practitioners.
Public health nurses are typically experienced registered nurses (which requires a bachelor’s degree). All RNs must have a current Nursing Registration with the AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioners Agency) to practise.
It takes at least a couple of years of practice nursing before you are ready to go out on your own as a community nurse. In many cases, specialized training or a certification is need to work in community health.
Responsibilities of a Community Nurse
Community health nurses can serve in a number of specialized roles, including a community child health nurse, community school health nurse, community health manager, community health policy officer.
This means that community health nurses must be knowledgeable about child health and development and can assist in early identification and referral of developmental concerns. These professionals also provide developmental and health information to parents, antenatal and postnatal information and support, breastfeeding support, information and access to immunization, and consulting on early nutrition and various infant feeding difficulties.
Some school-based public health nurses are assigned to high schools and work largely with adolescents; others regularly primary schools to conduct developmental assessments, while other nurses are employed in education support schools to assist with children with special needs. The primary focus of community school health nursing is promoting both mental and physical health, as well as appropriate interventions when health and developmental concerns are at issue, and serving as a resource for medical expertise for school staff and families.