Preventing Disease in Communities: The Role of Public Health, the Silent Sentinel

Our “world” starts with our own community, county, and state, then moves out in concentric rings from that point to include our country and eventually the world. Disease is transmitted from person to person through direct contact, or from a source such as a vector or contaminated water through a variety of means, such as flood waters or even terrorist actions. Individuals with limited or no knowledge of safe sex methods may have unprotected sexual relations and knowingly or unknowingly transmit disease to their partners, then to their partners’ partners, and on and on. Often it is the role of the public health nurse to investigate a disease outbreak, contain it, and then educate others so that the same situation doesn’t happen again.

In this Discussion, you will visit a site and interview people who work there about risks for disease transmission, then report on your findings.

To prepare, select which site you will visit from the following options:

  • High school nurse’s office
  • Water treatment plant
  • Public health department
  • Pediatrician’s office

Create a brief description of your setting, providing some context; for example, how many patients are seen, size or capacity of the facility as applicable, and/or the location of the office or organization.

Take pictures of the building and surrounding area/neighborhood to provide context. You do not have to include the interior/s of the building/s or people/clients who may be there.

Then, during your site visit, pose the questions listed in the following chart:

High school nurse

  • What is the school’s policy on giving students advice about birth control?
  • How often do you get requests for information about birth control or how to protect oneself from an STD?
  • How do you track vaccination compliance, and what happens to students who fall out of compliance?

Local water treatment plant

  • Where does your community’s water come from?
  • Where is it stored?
  • How often is it tested for purity?
  • What safeguards are in place to prevent tampering with the water supply?

Local public health department

  • Does this department have an STD clinic?
  • In addition to testing, does the department offer treatment of one party or both parties?
  • What is the most frequently diagnosed STD?

A pediatrician’s office

  • What is your policy on accepting patients who refuse vaccinations?
  • What are the most common reasons parents decline vaccinations for their children in this particular office?
  • What is the policy at this office for giving antibiotics to treat viral syndromes?

Now, look at the site you visited through the eyes of the public health nurse (PHN). Imagine you are the PHN and have been asked to investigate an outbreak at this facility.

  • What questions would you ask?
  • What suggestions could you make to avoid a disease outbreak at the facility?
  • What would your role as a change agent be for any deficiencies you find in your on-site inspection?

By Day 3

Post your brief description and pictures of the site you visited. Share the answers you were given to the questions you posed. Then, respond to the above prompts through the eyes of a PHN asked to investigate an outbreak at this facility.

Support your response with references from the professional nursing literature.

Note Initial Post: A 3-paragraph (at least 350 words) response. Be sure to use evidence from the readings and include in-text citations. Utilize essay-level writing practice and skills, including the use of transitional material and organizational frames. Avoid quotes; paraphrase to incorporate evidence into your own writing. A reference list is required. Use the most current evidence (usually ≤ 5 years old).

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