Tacit knowledge of public health nurses in identifying community health problems and need for new services: a case study

Kyoko Yoshioka-Maeda, Sachiyo Murashima, Kiyomi Asahara
International Journal of Nursing Studies 2006, 43 (7): 819-26

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to explore the tacit knowledge of public health nurses in identifying community health problems and developing relevant new projects. Previous research only roughly showed those skills for creating new community health services, such as lobbying.

METHOD: Nine Japanese public health nurses who had created new projects in their municipalities were selected by theoretical sampling and interviewed in 2002-2003. Yin's Case Study Method, especially the multiple-case study design, was used.

RESULTS: All 9 public health nurses used similar approaches in identifying community health problems and the need for creating new services, even though their experiences differed and the kinds of projects varied. They identified the difficulties of clients, recognized clients who had the same problems, elucidated the limitations of existing services, and forecasted outcomes from the neglect of the clients' problems. Then they succeeded in creating a new project by examining individual health problems in the context of their community's characteristics, societal factors, and using existing policies to support their clients.

CONCLUSION: This is the first study to explore the skills of public health nurses and their intention to use such skills in creating new projects as well as the exact process. They could identify community health problems that will be the basis for developing new services to provide care for individual clients. This is different from the traditional community assessment approach that requires the collection of a huge amount of information to clarify community health problems. The tacit knowledge of public health nurses will help to create needs-oriented new services more smoothly.

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