When assessing a community, nurses consider three key components: the people, the boundaries, and the general environment in which the community exists (Green, 2018). This assessment allows researchers to establish parameters for the members of the community and the environment in order to narrow their focus. The nurse’s population assessment is guided by both the geopolitical and phenomenological place.
The geopolitical place refers to the physical aspects of the community, such as its boundaries, transportation infrastructure, geographic features, climate, vegetation, animals, and human-made homes and facilities. These factors can provide valuable information about the quantity and quality of life of the population under study. The nurse has the ability to define the boundaries of the community, which can vary depending on the research question or objective (Green, 2018). For instance, if studying a rural community, the nurse may define the boundaries based on the physical distance from a centralized urban area. This information helps to contextualize the findings and understand any unique challenges or resources available to the community.
In addition to geopolitical factors, the phenomenological place of a community also plays a significant role in assessing its population. This aspect focuses on the community’s history, culture, economics, education, spiritual beliefs, values, common characteristics, or shared goals (Green, 2018). Understanding how individuals within the community experience and perceive their situation or phenomenon is crucial. For example, a nurse assessing a community may investigate the conflict surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) at Mauna Kea in Hawaii. This conflict is not defined by physical boundaries but by the relational location of the individuals involved, such as political activism groups, church organizations, or cultural groups (Green, 2018). By considering the phenomenological place, nurses can gain a deeper understanding of the community’s dynamics and potential barriers to health.
The process of conducting a community assessment is similar to that of a health assessment, encompassing the steps of assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, and evaluation (Green, 2018). Like in a health assessment, gathering data is an essential part of the process. Primary data can be collected through direct interactions with community members, such as interviews, surveys, or focus groups. Secondary data, on the other hand, can be obtained from existing sources, such as government reports or previously published research. Both sources of data help to paint a comprehensive picture of the community and its strengths and weaknesses.
Once the data has been collected, the nurse can utilize various frameworks and tools to analyze and make sense of the information. One commonly used tool is the SWOT analysis, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This analysis encourages critical thinking and allows the nurse to identify areas of improvement, potential resources, and challenges that may impact the health of the population and the community environment (Green, 2018). This analysis can guide the formulation of appropriate interventions and strategies to address the identified health needs.
An example of a community assessment and subsequent intervention is the outbreak of the Rat Lungworm disease in Hawaii in 2017. The Hawaii Department of Health responded to this public health threat by launching a public information campaign to educate residents and visitors about the risk and prevention of the disease. This intervention highlights the importance of timely and targeted strategies to address specific health concerns within a community (State of Hawaii, Department of Health, 2019).
In summary, assessing a community involves considering the people, boundaries, and environment in which the community exists. This assessment can be guided by both geopolitical and phenomenological factors, which provide valuable information about the population and its dynamics. The assessment process follows a structured approach and involves gathering and analyzing data, diagnosing needs, planning interventions, implementing strategies, and evaluating outcomes. Through these assessments, nurses can identify health needs and develop targeted interventions to promote the well-being of the community.