• Japan;
  • public health nursing;
  • rural populations

ABSTRACT  The objective of this study was to describe the activities of the public health nurses in the local community. The setting was a small rural town in central Japan. The design was a descriptive study based on informant interviews supplemented by participant observation. The sample consisted of five public health nurses, four health care workers in other fields, and seven clients, all living in the same town. Each participant was interviewed individually. Interviews focused on the participants' understanding of what public health nurses actually do. Semistructured interview guides for each group of participants served as a framework to elicit participants' views on the activities of the public health nurses. Analysis of interview transcripts indicated that commitment was a core concept in the role of the public health nurses. Linked to this central theme were three constructs describing their work: identifying the real needs of clients, responding appropriately and promptly, and establishing trust relationships. The interviews indicated considerable public support for collaborative activities involving public health nurses, other health care workers, and community members. Implications for public health nurses' expanded role in Japan in relation to other health care professionals are addressed.