Education and Support Drive Success in Nursing: 2018 Scholarship Shortlist (AB)

Bethany Welton

Red Deer College – Bachelor of Science Nursing Program – 2021

Preventative healthcare is an approach to wellness that considers each aspect of a patient’s life: their genetics, lifestyle, mental wellbeing, and social circumstances. By conducting a comprehensive assessment, the healthcare team is able to identify which ailments a particular patient is at risk of developing in the future. The preventative approach incorporates strategies to reduce the risk of those future health problems taking shape. On the surface, this approach to health may appear time-consuming. Some may even say it is a waste of valuable resources in terms of staffing and health care spending. This is likely due to the fact that when preventative healthcare is carried out successfully, nothing happens. There are no flashing lights, no alarms beeping, and no “code blue” alert being announced over the hospital intercom. The patient is more likely to maintain their health, along with their quality of life without the need for drastic and intrusive medical intervention. As I prepare to enter the healthcare field as a Registered Nurse, I will practice preventative healthcare by taking the following steps: educating myself on current health monitoring tools and screening recommendations, developing comprehensive assessment skills, and by utilizing the expertise offered by other members of the healthcare team.

To successfully incorporate a preventative healthcare approach into my nursing practice, I will continually educate myself on current screening recommendations so that I can educate my patients with accurate and complete information. With the continuous advancement of technology and the publication of new research, recommendations for the prevention of certain diseases can change. As a future Registered Nurse, it is my duty to know what these recommendations are. This will allow me to be a valuable resource for my patients. With current data, I will be able to conduct better conversations with my patients in regards to the benefits that screening tests can have. Not every patient will be willing to take part in preventative measures, especially if the examination or test required is uncomfortable. A patient will be more willing to attend an appointment for a screening colonoscopy if they have been properly educated on their individual risks and what those risks can lead to later in life. This patient education is more meaningful when it is taught by a professional who is knowledgeable. When the patient considers their health care professional a reliable source of information, a relationship of trust begins to develop.

Preventative healthcare looks different for each patient.

In addition to deepening my knowledge of health monitoring tools, I will strive to master my assessment skills. By conducting a thorough patient assessment which engulfs the physical, emotional, and social aspects of the individual entrusted to my care, I will be able to develop a personalized care plan. This care plan will be tailored to the specific family history, social circumstances, and current level of health of my patient. If I have a patient who would benefit from reducing her sodium intake to manage her hypertension, in an effort to reduce her risk of developing cardiovascular disease, but she is unable to read food labels due to declining eyesight or cognitive difficulties, my suggestion for her to read the sodium content on food labels will not be helpful. Or perhaps I will work with a patient who needs to attend physiotherapy appointments every Monday and Wednesday to prevent muscle wasting in his left leg due to an injury from a car accident, but because of the PTSD he suffers from the trauma of the accident, he is unable to bring himself to drive. How will he attend these appointments? In this situation, the patient’s mental health is a barrier preventing him from improving his physical health. A preventative healthcare mindset will ensure that I consider more than just the physical aspects of an individual’s health.

When developing care plans for my patients, it is essential that I remember this: preventative healthcare cannot be optimally achieved through my efforts alone. As a nurse, I alone will not possess the full scope of expertise that each patient will require. I may have sufficient knowledge to educate a patient on dietary changes he can incorporate to halt the progression of his Type 2 Diabetes, but wouldn’t he be better served by meeting with an expert in the field of nutrition, someone who is immersed every day in how food relates to health? My patient will have a better chance of success by meeting regularly with a dietician for nutrition counseling. The dietician will have extensive knowledge in this area and will be able to have a stronger impact on the patient. There is no place for arrogance in preventative healthcare. It requires a team effort where each professional recognizes and utilizes the specialized skills of each team member. One health care provider does not possess all the knowledge and skills required to address the multifaceted aspects of each patient: social, mental, and physical. Preventative healthcare is an approach that requires the mastery of doctors, nurses, social workers, mental health workers, physiotherapists, dieticians, administrative staff, and others.

Maintaining health and preventing disease is imperative to the health of our communities. As a Registered Nurse I will strive not only to treat the ill, but to educate the healthy. When the healthy are educated on preventing illness, they are better equipped to maintain their health. If a patient is able to maintain their health, this removes the burden of disease from the patient, their family, and the Canadian healthcare system. Through continuous education, exceptional assessment skills, and utilizing the skills of the entire healthcare team, I believe that I can contribute to the prevention of disease in my community.