In the healthcare arena preventive care is increasing in popularity. A large percentage of the patient population is uninsured and the costs associated with chronic disease are extreme, therefore preventive care initiatives are essential. Additionally, preventive care measures are more likely to detect a disease in its early stages which equates to improved patient outcomes. We are well-equipped to provide preventive nursing care to patients because of our training and skill sets, so what is a nurse's role in preventive care?
- Nurses and primary prevention. Primary prevention initiatives work to prevent risk factors for disease through patient education initiatives. For instance, nurses could teach children what makes up a healthy diet or they could teach their patients about the dangers of tobacco use. Also in primary prevention, nurses could identify patients with risk factors and work with them to reduce these factors in an effort to prevent the onset of disease. Consider the following scenario: The patient comes into the clinic and is found to have an elevated blood pressure. The nurse could discuss diet and exercise and measures to reduce the blood pressure. This is an example of preventive care.
- Nurses and secondary prevention. Secondary prevention initiatives work to identify and detect disease in its earliest stages, when it is most likely to be treated successfully. Another goal of secondary prevention is to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Nurses are influential in secondary prevention. Nurses can recommend or schedule mammograms or colonoscopies, and they can encourage their patients to get vaccines or to wash their hands routinely.
- Nurses and tertiary prevention. Tertiary prevention programs involve an actual treatment for the disease. They are designed to restore self-sufficiency, and their goal is to limit the complications and disabilities associated with a disease state. An example of tertiary prevention would be cardiac rehabilitation for those patients after a myocardial infarction.
Nurses are no longer confined to rote tasks; rather they are educators beyond nursing care. They and their physician colleagues must work together as a unit to provide preventive care which will help maintain the health and quality of life of their patients.