Aim To explore the extent to which Community Health Nurses (CHN) engage in community-focused public health practice and the facilitators and barriers to such practice.
Background The government promotes the role of nurses in public health. However, there is confusion as to what constitutes public health; a lack of support to move from individual and family-focused practice to community-focused practice; and, inconsistency of the use of titles.
Method A 15% quota sample (n = 409), drawn from a population of 2668 CHNs, participated in a quantitative survey.
Results Response rate was 67% (n = 275). Over half of CHN time was spent with individuals and families, community level activity accounting for only 18%. Only 9% of respondents had completed a community needs assessment. Education was key to the promotion of community-focused practice with collection of individual activity data a major barrier.
Conclusions There is a gap between the rhetoric and reality of community public health nursing.
Implications for Nursing Management Development of a shared vision of public health nursing and commissioning of education to meet public health priorities is essential. Furthermore, strengthening public health nurse leadership to foster innovative practice and methods of measuring public health nursing outcomes is required.