Finding Ways to Create Connections Among Communities: Partial Results of an Ethnography of Urban Public Health Nurses


Address correspondence to Judeen Schulte, Professor of Nursing, Alverno College, 3400 South 43rd Street, P.O. Box 343922, Milwaukee, WI 53234–3922.


The purpose of this ethnographic study was to describe the culture of public health nurses (PHNs) in a large, Midwestern urban health department. Data collection methods, data management, and analyses followed ethnographic procedures and resulted in the development of categories, domains, and cultural themes. The general study participants were PHNs, clients, supervisors, and administrators. The primary cultural theme that emerged was that public health nursing is finding ways to create connections among communities. Three interacting communities were identified: the local communities, communities created by individuals and families, and communities of resources. This article describes one of the three subthemes that emerged, processes used to help clients create connections, and describes how caring is shown uniquely in public health nursing. As a result of the study, implications for nursing practice, education, and research were developed. The results of the study supported a position that public health nursing is a unique nursing specialty. It reinforced also the applicability of an ethnographic design and methodology to nursing research.