'Every nurse' has role in boosting public's health, says nursing leader
All nurses will be supported in making “every contact count” to help improve the overall health and wellbeing of their patients, according to England’s top public health nurse.
A set of guidance specifically aimed at helping nurses promote public health will be launched in June, Professor Viv Bennett has told Nursing Times.
Professor Bennett is director of nursing at the DH and also director of nursing for the newly-created body Public Health England, which was officially launched on 1 April.
It is one of the new organisations created under the government’s health reforms and has responsibility for protecting and improving the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reducing inequalities. It employs around 300 nurses who are specialists in public health.
Speaking to Nursing Times after the launch, Professor Bennett said Public Health England would be raising awareness of the public health work already undertaken by some district and practice nurses, as well as public health specialists like school nurses and health visitors.
She said: “A lot of nurses feel at the moment that their role in actually increasing health – particularly at community and population levels – is just completely invisible. Raising the profile around that is certainly something that we will be looking to do.”
However, she said Public Health England would be supporting the growth of the role of all nurses in improving the public’s health.
“Every nurse and midwife has a responsibility to make every contact count for health and wellbeing – and so providing support, information, education around that is really important,” she said.
“We’re doing a lot of work around the evidence base for public health nursing – doing what works – and we’ll be launching a range of work around that at a conference in June,” she told Nursing Times.
This will involve developing “nurse accessible” guidelines from 41 separate pieces of guidance on public health invention published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
She said she had found the profession’s response to the creation of Public Health England had so far been “really, really positive”.
“Nurses are under tremendous pressure – we know that – but a good many nurses in acute settings really wanted to know more about when and how to talk to people about improving their health for the longer term, as well as the problem in front of them.
“People are worried whether they have time and the skills and knowledge to do that, which I completely understand, but it’s part of Public Health England’s responsibility to make sure the information to do this is available.”
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