Community-based nursing is complex, as it requires nurses to focus on disease prevention, health promotion and restorative care. As a result, community-based nurses care for patients with acute and chronic conditions as well as individuals of different ages and cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

To work effectively in this complex role, community-based nurses require substantial knowledge of communication principles, cultural diversity, group dynamics and family nursing theory.

Many RN to BSN online programs focus on these very skills to prepare nurses for a variety of responsibilities. With this education, nurses are well prepared to provide care for some of the most compromised and vulnerable people in our communities.

What Is Community-Based Nursing?

The philosophical framework for community-based nursing views human beings as “open and interactive” with their environment. Professionals in community-based nursing look at the long- and short-term healthcare needs of individuals and families while emphasizing the importance of self-care within the context of one’s family and significant others, culture, community and society as a whole. This nursing care takes place within community clinics and a patient’s home.

An example of a community-based nursing situation includes a mother who lacks medical insurance and brings her sick child to the clinic in her neighborhood. Another example is of a man experiencing homelessness who seeks help at the community clinic when he cuts his foot while walking barefoot on the street.

What Is the Difference Between Community-Based Nursing and Community Health Nursing?

The primary goal of community health nurses is to “preserve, protect, promote, or maintain (the) health” of community members — particularly at-risk individuals in specific subpopulations within communities. For example, some community health nurses specialize in providing immunizations while others may work as case managers with older adults returning home after a fall or stroke.

Like community health nurses, community-based nurses also focus on health promotion and disease prevention. However, the primary focus of community-based nursing is on caring for individuals and families rather than the larger subgroup to which they belong — even though the nurse does consider the larger subgroup in patient-centered care. Community-based nurses provide care to individuals of all ages, and often for people with a variety of health conditions.

Why Is Community Nursing So Important?

The purpose of community-based centers is to serve as the first point of contact between individuals and families and the larger healthcare system. In this setup, patients can receive more affordable care with less stress because they may be accompanied by family and friends and do not need to leave their community.

Knowing what individuals and families consider important is essential in community-based nursing. Understanding of health and illness is tied to one’s culture, which includes language, values and beliefs. In order for the nurse to assess a patient’s health status and establish a plan of care, the nurse needs to understand what the patient and family believe about health and illness, and what their desires, priorities and concerns are when seeking healthcare, accepting nurse care and accepting responsibility for their own health.

Which Patient Populations Are Best Served by Community-Based Nursing?

Vulnerable populations are best served by community-based nursing because it focuses on individuals and families as the patient within the context of their communities. “Vulnerable” includes individuals and families with few financial and/or social support systems who are often isolated and not willing or able to seek healthcare independently. Members of these communities are at a higher risk of developing health problems.

Vulnerable communities often include marginalized groups, immigrant populations, older adults, people experiencing homelessness, and people living with mental illness, domestic violence or drug and substance abuse disorders. The individuals and families served by community-based nursing often have several complex and inter-related healthcare needs that require more care than traditional hospital or outpatient settings can provide.

Community-based nursing plays a vital role in caring for underserved and vulnerable populations. By striving to understand the backgrounds, beliefs and needs of the people in their communities, community-based nurses provide an invaluable service to those who may otherwise not have access to healthcare.

Learn more about Eastern Michigan University’s online RN to BSN program.


Nurse Key: Community-Based Nursing Practice: Chapter 3

Journal of Community & Public Health Nursing: Community Based Nursing