A new partnership between the Crowder College Cassville Campus Nursing Program and the Barry County Health Department is offering students an inside look at the role of public health nurses in communities.
"The general public has very little idea of the activities that the health department is involved in," said Sandy Reed Wilson, Crowder College Cassville Campus Nursing Program director. "Most people know that they give immunizations to students before children enter school, but they are unaware of the other variety of services the health department offers."
Crowder College Cassville Campus Nursing Program students began completing clinical hours at the local health department in September. Students visit the health department once a week for three consecutive weeks during a semester.
"I hope that the students receive a much broader understanding of what the health department provides for the public and the variety of skills public health nurses have," said Reed Wilson.
Although students are not allowed to administer vaccinations at the health department, they can help with paperwork, record weights and measurements and provide other assistance, said Carol Landstad, public health programs director.
"The main thing is to help them become more aware of the role of a public health nurse, which is a non-traditional aspect of nursing," said Landstad. "When most people think of nursing, they think of hospital nursing or doctor nursing with individual patients. Public health nursing looks at the whole population, the residents of and visitors to Barry County.
"Our role is to promote and protect the general health of the population," added Landstad.
Public health nurses protect public health through immunizations that help prevent communicable diseases. They also conduct follow-up interviews when individuals are diagnosed with communicable diseases.
"We check to see if we are looking at a general public health concern or an outbreak," said Landstad. "Public health nursing is like forensic nursing in that sense."
Public health nurses also work with community agencies, schools, municipalities and organizations to make policies to promote overall general health of population. Some of those policies include establishing smoke-free zones and educating community members about cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.
"We also do a lot of assessment of the community and services available for disease prevention and health promotion," said Landstad.
During their time at the health department students have the opportunity to see how public health nurses work with members of the department's environmental public health services team, which conducts food service, lodging and childcare inspections and permits wastewater systems in the county.
Reed Wilson said that students are enjoying their time at the health department. Several students have remarked that they are surprised by the number of services offered by public health nurses.
Crowder College Cassville Campus Nursing Program students must complete over 500 clinical hours during the two-year program. Clinical hours completed at the health department will count toward the program requirement.
In addition to completing clinical hours at the health department, students observe activities at the Cox Cassville Clinic and the Mercy Cassville Clinic.