• Canada;
  • health surveillance;
  • population-focused;
  • public health nurses;
  • qualitative

ABSTRACT Objective: To report the population health surveillance functions of public health nurses and to describe factors that impede these functions.

Design and Sample: An interpretive qualitative study was conducted in Public Health Service areas in Eastern Canada. Participants were public health nurses (n=55) with an average of 14.5 years of pertinent work experience.

Measures: Semistructured face-to-face, telephone interviews, and focus groups were conducted, transcribed, coded, and analyzed.

Results: The nurses in this study used ecosocial population health surveillance functions that included multilevel societal influences on health. Extensive interprofessional and intersectoral networks were foundational to their surveillance work, allowing them to monitor what was occurring in the community and transfer this knowledge into various systems to contribute toward improved health outcomes. However, the nurses did not acknowledge the significance of their population health surveillance work, and documentation structures did not support these surveillance functions.

Conclusion: New surveillance methods and documentation structures that reflect an ecosocial surveillance approach are needed that are more consistent with public health nurses' population-focused practice.