Healthcare is one of the most basic human needs. As such, it should be available to everyone. Unfortunately, many communities in the US, especially in rural areas, do not get adequate access to this fundamental human right.
Sometimes, the problem is the nonexistent healthcare services in these underserved communities. Other times, healthcare facilities are present, but other factors impede access. This write-up lays it bare regarding the provision of community care services in rural locations.
A brief overview of community healthcare
Community healthcare is an important aspect of public health that focuses on the physical, mental and general well-being of people in a particular location. In unique situations, community healthcare also helps prepare for natural disasters and the spread of infectious diseases. This type of healthcare is not individualized but designed to improve the health of a community. It also extends to the maintenance of a healthy and sanitary environment.
Generally, ideal community healthcare services should include the following:
- Primary care
- Dental care
- Behavioral Health
- Emergency care
- Public health services
Getting involved in community healthcare
Although all nursing roles aim to provide a better quality of life for patients, this objective is much more emphasized for nurses within the ambit of community healthcare. So, becoming a community healthcare nurse starts with a desire to be a part of a crucial mission. Once that is established, nurses can look for opportunities with medical institutions or other healthcare organizations that cater to underserved communities.
Naturally, prospective nurses first need to get an accredited nursing degree – either a BSN or ABSN. Students in a nursing program can begin gaining community healthcare experience through volunteer roles with organizations that share similar goals. Nursing students enrolled in the University of Indianapolis ABSN often get easier access to such volunteer programs.
You can begin with centers that do lice checks in homeless shelters, free medical checkups for pregnant women, etc. You can take things further by joining professional organizations like the Health Career Connection, which helps nursing students find internships and job positions as care practitioners in underserved communities.
Benefits of community healthcare roles for nurses
Firstly, the world is beginning to understand the benefits of community medical programs, and there are now different forms of incentives available. As a matter of fact, the White House is beginning to invest billions of dollars in the National Health Service Corps and other relevant agencies to bring adequate quality healthcare to poorer communities.
These programs create more job opportunities for registered nurses. They even offer loan repayment schemes for student volunteers, who simultaneously get to build their field experience. Most importantly, nursing students or practitioners involved in community healthcare get the satisfaction of making a difference in these underprivileged areas.
Benefits of community healthcare on the population
It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of healthcare. Where there is a lack of adequate healthcare, like in underserved communities, providing these facilities results in enormous improvements in the following:
- Life expectancy
- Quality of life
- Disease prevention
- Physical health
- Mental health
- Social health
- Detection, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases
Barriers to healthcare access in rural communities
The question is, why do some communities lack access to adequate medical care? It is difficult for quality healthcare to penetrate rural communities for different reasons. Here are the primary ones:
Due to the nature of these communities, healthcare facilities are usually situated on the outskirts of the town. It becomes an inconvenience when people must travel a long distance to get the treatment they need. For many individuals in these communities, the distance and cost of transportation are usually barriers. As such, they resort to makeshift healthcare solutions within the vicinity.
Limited staff is a significant issue that impedes access to healthcare. Even when the primary healthcare facility is close by, they are usually understaffed. At best, there are one or two facilities in these rural communities. So, the ratio of patients to practitioners is so high that these medical centers often become overwhelmed.
If there is not a shortage of nurses, there will be a shortage of doctors and specialists. Adequate professional staff is vital to improving healthcare access in rural communities.
Payment for the services
It is no surprise that poor communities have less access to health insurance. These underserved communities have low-income levels and living standards, making it difficult for them to afford health insurance. As you can imagine, where the population cannot afford an insurance policy, they will have a harder time paying for healthcare services without insurance.
Communication barrier and poor health literacy
There is a high level of illiteracy in underprivileged neighborhoods. This can easily reduce the confidence level of individuals when communicating with healthcare professionals.
It is important for patients to feel comfortable with healthcare practitioners. However, a language barrier will cause some level of inconvenience. Beyond the reluctance to seek healthcare, illiteracy also affects patients' ability to understand information and instructions advised in a care plan.
Poor internet access
Technology has found its way into almost every aspect of life, and telemedicine is among the latest in its applications in the health sector. While telemedicine continues making strides in urban areas, the opposite is true for remote communities with poor internet access.
In these communities, there is often a lack of broadband internet and slow internet speed, which impedes the effectiveness of videoconferencing, personal health apps, and remote monitoring devices. It stands to reason that such underserved populations cannot fully enjoy the benefits of electronically distributed health-related services.
Everyone deserves quality healthcare, but unfortunately, those living in impoverished communities hardly get access to these medical facilities. There are several reasons for this deficiency, from understaffing to financial limitations and poor internet.
On the bright side, this dilemma is beginning to improve as the world now understands the benefits of providing community healthcare. There are increasing benefits for nurses in this sector, not to mention plenty of job opportunities. Also, by joining volunteer services, you can begin building a career as a public care nurse before even obtaining a degree.
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