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The top 10 public health issues you’re seeing in the exam room

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What does public health look like in your part of the country? Unfortunately, people will always be ill, injured or under the weather (otherwise, you’d be out of a job!), but as you see far too often, there are preventable problems that, well, aren’t being prevented. We asked our Facebook fans for the top public health issues they’re seeing in the exam room. See how your city compares and also get our tips on how nurses can impact public policy.

The top 10 public health issues you’re seeing in the exam room

1. Non-emergent patients using the ED as a clinic. I don’t think the general public realizes how much work/time it takes to chart/care for someone who could have easily been seen by their PMD.
—Shari Breen

2. Mentally ill and/or uninsured people who are unable to be treated by a primary care and who are treated like dirt because of it. If these people were able to see a primary care or psychiatrist, they likely wouldn’t end up in the ER as much with horrible infections and/or psychotic breaks.
—Michelle Martin

3. I have been a nurse on both the east and west coasts. What I am continually upset with is the lack of education. Constantly “treating” the same preventable disease. Desperately trying to teach these people why they are in this situation (with such limited time to do so), only to have them go home, continue the same bad habits (smoking; high-fat, high-sodium diet; lack of physical activity) and be back in the hospital within weeks. I am seriously considering a move to holistic care. I want to use my skills to help people who actually want my help. People seem to believe that a hospital is a quick fix. This is not healthcare; it is sickcare!
—Caitlin Cawley

4. Homelessness—sending homeless patients with big medical problems/wounds back out into the streets! It’s so much more affordable and caring to find them housing than it is to have them coming into the ER every day via paramedics.
—Ilona Gorokhovskiy

5. MRSA. EVERY patient we get from a hospital into our nursing home has it.
—Tara Travis Rosario

6. COPD, obesity and diabetes. The holy trinity.
—Jamie Clark

7. Addiction! Very prevalent where I live. I think half of our community is on methadone or still using drugs. Very sad as the majority are so young.
—Nicole Gonzalez Klein

8. Poor environmental sanitation and air pollution.
—Gwen Sarabi

9. We have an epidemic of child abuse in our city. The future does not look very bright in my part of the country with the kids being treated so poorly.
—Becky Nelson Padilla

10. We have lots of STDs and teen pregnancies.
—Gayle Sherman

HOW YOU CAN AFFECT PUBLIC POLICY
Even if you sometimes feel like it’s an impossible task, there are ways nurses can get involved and affect public policy in their community:

1. Be a patient advocate. Stand up and be the voice of your patient when he or she isn’t being heard. Do whatever you can to get answers for them—your patients often don’t have the resources to find the answers themselves. Most importantly, listen; your patients need you even more than you realize.

2. Join a professional nursing organization. Nurses in professional organizations have many resources available to make a change—including a large number of members who are all working toward the same end! Working together, members of professional nursing organizations can strategize to bring public health to the forefront of decision makers’ agendas, whether locally or nationally.

3. Speak out. Write a letter to your local paper. Pick up the phone to contact your senator. Initiate a policy proposal. Run for public office. As a nurse, you have an amazing platform upon which to affect change. It all starts with one voice—yours.

What are the biggest public health issues in your city? What do you think can be done to educate the public and help lessen these issues?

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