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Outbreak Investigations: Community Participation and Role of Community and Public Health Nurses


Maria Gilson Sistrom, Oregon Health & Sciences University School of Nursing, 3455 SW Veterans Hospital Road, SN-4S, Portland, OR 97239. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Community and public health nurses (C/PHNs) may play a vital role in the investigation of disease outbreaks. C/PHNs possess skills in conducting interviews on sensitive subjects and in collaborating with communities. C/PHNs maintain key links to community providers, symptomatic clients, their families and associates, as well as community institutions where outbreaks occur. This combination of skills makes C/PHNs ideally suited to perform outbreak investigations. There are, however, pressing questions about whether C/PHNs are adequately prepared to contribute to investigation outcomes, to foster participation of affected communities, and to fully apply nursing skills to outbreak investigations to stop the spread of disease. Using one case study, the authors explore investigation outcomes, community participation issues, educational preparation, and public health funding and workforce policies required to achieve these ends successfully. One model of community participation in the steps of outbreak investigation and several Quad Council domains and competencies are proposed for use in practice. Questions regarding the use of emergency preparedness funding and employment of C/PHNs in epidemiology roles are raised.