In 1998, the World Health Organization (WHO) created a novel category of nurse entitled Family Health Nurse (FHN). This category describes a nurse who performs multiple aspects of healthcare, including assisting individuals, entire families and whole communities in health management, as well as enriching their health. The WHO also designed a curriculum for training potential family health nurses in five essential aspects of this profession, such as providing care, making healthcare-related decisions, communicating, leadership in a community and management (WHO Europe, 2000).
The institutionalization of the category of family health nurse serves as an answer to issues of inadequate healthcare in specific countries around the world, especially remote and rural communities. It was initially observed that community nurses in rural areas provided multiple roles to supplement the insufficient amount of healthcare services thus resulting in nurses who were acting in a triple-duty capacity.
Such community nurse’s settings included offering specialized care to the rural community, providing healthcare at home and midwifery serves. The intense load and responsibilities of nurses at that time seemed very difficult to maintain and more importantly, it was arduous to exhibit competence and skills if three major roles were being performed all at the same time. Simultaneously, the population size of community nurses have decreased in the last few decades, resulting in a critical size of active community nurses.
Further recruitment and retention of the dwindling number of active community nurses have then been challenging. The concept of establishing the new category of family health nurse thus provides a solution to the problems of shortage of healthcare services and alleviation of nurses’ work load. It has long been recognized that the basic unit of society is the family. Each unit carries out important purposes, including providing nourishment to the children and giving support to the members of the family.
In addition, the family offers to its member safety from danger and supports survival, especially to members who are young, old or disabled. The family also serves as a substrate for the transfer of cultural and social beliefs, as well as traditions and values from the older generation to the next. Care and support is also provided within a family, especially during difficult times such as death or illness. Within a family, a member has an indefinite source of love, companionship and close associations.
The family is an important focus for nurses because this basic social unit is the driving force that influences the health of its members. Family health nurses who have a good understanding of the intricate dynamics with a family can further enhance or improve the health and well-being of the family. Every family has its own unique combination of culture, values and beliefs hence each healthcare personnel must show consideration to each family.
The healthcare personnel will not engage in stereotyping particular families because this will constrain them to avail of healthcare services elsewhere and more importantly, will raise their risk for disease because the family will avoid consultation and any related healthcare services. The family is an important focus for a nurse because this social unit serves as a vehicle in dealing with health issues of the family as well as its members. A family also carries a strong alliance with regards to healthcare within its unit wherein the members are actively involved in discussions and decisions that are related to the health of each member.
Such setting has deviated from earlier traditional mechanisms of a family, which treats the healthcare personnel as the person who decides on the outcome or the next step to take with regards to the healthcare of a member of a family. A traditional family is defined as a social unit composed of two parents residing with their children. To date, this social unit has evolved, with influences from both environmental and societal factors, resulting in different types and structures.
It has thus been defined that a family is a group of individuals who are connected by blood, kinship, legal or emotional relationships (ICN). Hence a family these days may include individuals that comprise the extension of this social unit, such as adopted or foster children. There are also newer family structures such as that composed of a single parent and children, or one with a stepparent and a remarried parent. There are also other families that are comprised by two adults living together and are not legally related by marriage.