More registered nurses step into non-traditional roles

More and more registered nurses are stepping outside the hospital setting to provide outreach care to communities through homes, schools and offices, teaching patients, caregivers, students, homeowners and low-income families about healthy living, the Patriot-News reported.

In 1980, 66 percent of all nurses worked in hospitals, but that number dropped to just over 62 percent in 2008, with more nurses working for public health agencies, home healthcare, nursing homes, schools, mental health agencies, hospice, the military nursing education and research, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). 

Joyce Ravinskas, R.N., is program manager of PinnacleHealth System's Lead and Healthy Homes Program, where she performs environmental health assessments for families based on a doctor referral, hoping to fix the root cause of health issues rather than just treat symptoms.

"Asthma is triggered by roaches, dust mites and bed bugs. It's great if a child is given medicine to control asthma, but isn't it better to find out what's triggering it and then maybe they don't have to be on the medicine?" Ravinskas told the Patriot-News.

Home visits and environmental assessments help nurses act as the "doctor's eyes and ears," said Dianne Rudy, R.N., a home health nurse with Carlisle, Pa.-based Celtic Healthcare, and also allows nurses to more closely monitor and assist patients. "I can see if they are having any family difficulties or they don't have money for food or they are having mental health issues--and I can refer them to get help for those things."

As population health becomes a top priority for hospitals in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, non-traditional nursing's roles in community nursing is important because it stresses health education and disease prevention, rather than just treating the illness symptoms, said Wanda Thuma-McDermond, R.N., a professor of nursing at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa. "The illustration is that there are healthcare workers standing on the edge of the river and they are jumping in and rescuing people with CPR, but they never take the time to go up the river and figure out why people are jumping in or falling into the river,'' she told the newspaper. "You can make more of a difference in the long run if you work with people to make lifelong changes that are good for their health."

Non-traditional medicine is getting more popular as a whole. Many doctors increasingly offer more services such as weight-loss programs, Botox and urgent care to compete with retail clinics and urgent care centers, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the article 
- read the AACN data