Perceived Role of School-Based Public Health Nurses in a Publicly Funded Health Care System: A Qualitative Inquiry

  • Author / Creator
    Zaplachinski, Caitlin
  • Children are experiencing increasingly complex health needs that can be exacerbated by adverse events such as the COVID-19 pandemic. While school-based public health nurses are in ideal positions to help address these needs, a comprehensive literature review suggests that school nurses are spending less time in schools, lack organizational support, and have ambiguous roles within school health. This qualitative description study aimed to describe and understand how school-based public health nurses in one western Canadian jurisdiction perceive their role and how this role contributes to comprehensive school health. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with five school-based public health nurses. Qualitative content analysis was conducted through inductive coding and then summarized into themes. Role theory was used as a sensitizing concept throughout the analysis. Four interrelated themes arose from the interview data: (1) the role is centred around the in-school immunization program; (2) resource constraints result in an inconsistent role in health promotion; (3) immunization-focused interactions and limited presence result in disconnected relationships with others, and (4) role tension resulting from the role changing and narrowing over time. The study participants’ perceived role made limited contributions to the objectives of the comprehensive school health model. The described relationships between the study participants and other school health stakeholders shaped the SBPHN role, often resulting in participants feeling tension and strain. This study addressed the knowledge gap on the perceived role and interactions of school-based public health nurses in a jurisdiction with a publicly funded health care system and identified a critical gap between the school-based public health nurse role and the comprehensive school health approach. Strategies are needed to support an expanded school-based public health nurse role in comprehensive school health, such as providing adequate knowledge and education on school nursing practice and clearly defining the school-based public health nurse role to policy makers and the public. In a time when resources are limited, yet there is an ever-increasing need for health services, an expanded school-based public health nurse role may be a viable solution to improve children’s health.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Nursing
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.