The difference in the roles of the public health nurse and the community health nurse lie not in the types of care offered but in the level at which this care is offered to patients. The public health nurse provides care to individuals or to the members of a family. The community health nurse, on the other hand, provides on-going care and tips to a wider base of persons within a community. The goal of the public health nurse is to promote the wellness of the persons that reside within a community, so this role is often confused with that of the community health nurse. In fact, in many regions and countries, the terms are used interchangeably.
However, while the role of the public health nurse is to identify and deal with distinct illnesses being faced by persons at a given time, community health is concerned with the identifying issues in the physical and social environment that may affect the etiology of disease. The community health nurse works to educate the public regarding any such issues found to be of medical concern rather than merely to treat specific people with specific illnesses (Lundy & James, 2001).
It is often the case, however, that the role of public health nursing is contained within that of community health nursing. One particular definition of community health nursing gives its role as promoting and preserving health within a given population through education and the integration “of skills relevant to both nursing and public health” (Lundy & James, 2001, p. 874). Another definition demonstrating this integration of public health nurse’s role into that of the community health nurse is found in a journal by the ACHNE.
It states that “Community health nursing is a synthesis of nursing theory and public health theory applied to promoting and preserving the health of populations” (qtd. in 2001, p. 874). It can therefore be seen that community health nursing extends beyond simply promoting prevention and good health practices; it also includes some measures taken by nurses toward ameliorating the effects of diseases being suffered by individuals in a given instance. This incorporates the role of the public health nurse. Therefore, the main difference between the two still appears to be the level at which the care is offered to the members of a population.
Lundy, K. S. & S. James. (2001). Community health nursing: caring for the public’s health. Sudbury: Jones & Bartlett.