Special Features: Health Policy: Organizational Attributes That Assure Optimal Utilization of Public Health Nurses


Jane Underwood, Nursing Health Services Research Unit, McMaster University MDCL 3500, 1200 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8N 3Z5. E-mail: undrwood@mcmaster.ca


ABSTRACT Optimal utilization of public health nurses (PHNs) is important for strengthening public health capacity and sustaining interest in public health nursing in the face of a global nursing shortage. To gain an insight into the organizational attributes that support PHNs to work effectively, 23 focus groups were held with PHNs, managers, and policymakers in diverse regions and urban and rural/remote settings across Canada. Participants identified attributes at all levels of the public health system: government and system-level action, local organizational culture of their employers, and supportive management practices. Effective leadership emerged as a strong message throughout all levels. Other organizational attributes included valuing and promoting public health nursing; having a shared vision, goals, and planning; building partnerships and collaboration; demonstrating flexibility and creativity; and supporting ongoing learning and knowledge sharing. The results of this study highlight opportunities for fostering organizational development and leadership in public health, influencing policies and programs to optimize public health nursing services and resources, and supporting PHNs to realize the full scope of their competencies.