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Family Health Nursing

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Family Health Nursing Paper


The family, what can be more important to an individual than ones own family? "Families serve as the basic social unit of society." (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2004, p. 563) This paper will discuss the family, its importance for nurses, how the family has changed from the traditional nuclear family and will attempt to paint a picture of what a family is today. Additionally the author of this paper will define family health nursing.

Why is the family an important focus for nurses?

The family is an important focus for nurses for many reasons two of which will be highlighted in this paper. Many illnesses such as heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and asthma are known to follow genetic lines. "Understanding a patient's biologic family history often helps to diagnose unusual or rare conditions and the use of DNA testing and other laboratory screening tests can identify family members who are considered at high-risk. Once a family has been identified with strong genetic ties to a particular disease, a plan of care can be established which will include a great deal of education with the goal of primary prevention, regular screenings, and education. Intensive measures can then be taken to make early diagnoses or even prevent the disease in an effort to reduce morbidity and mortality" (Medalie & Cole-Kelly, 2002).

A recent report by the Institute of Medicine as quoted by Denham (2003) suggests "patient-centered care addresses the need to manage smooth transitions from one setting to another or from a health care to a self-care setting." Once a patient is discharged following a hospitalization due to an acute or chronic illness he or she will need assistance to recuperate and recover to their highest level of functioning. When acute or chronic illness strikes a family member, the roles of family members often change from mother, spouse, or sister to caregiver. The family can assist the patient with simple tasks such as diet, toileting activity; follow up appointments and any miscellaneous needs such as medication reminders, errands to pick up medications or supplies and meal preparation to complex tasks such as dressing changes and medication administration. "Nursing began in the home and, as such, families were of necessity included in all aspects of care. It was only with the move to hospitalized care that patients were separated from their families" (Brombley, 2005).

How has the family changed?

Over the years families have changed in many ways. The face of the nuclear family has changed dramatically. The traditional mother, father and one or two child households is now complex with divorced and remarried couples at times each entering the household with children from previous relationships. Other family structures might include: gay and lesbian couples who adopt, and single parents who lack any support from the child's other parent. Family size is decreasing as is the number of households containing married couples. "A generation ago, men were the traditional breadwinners. Today, nearly half of all working Americans are women" (CultureGrams, 2007). With the rise in working women, families where both parents work rely on daycare centers for younger children and generations of "latch-key children" are now becoming the norm.

What constitutes a family today?

The U.S. census bureau defines the family as "a group of two or more people related by blood, marriage or adoption" (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). Does this definition truly define the American family? "Every aspect of the American family is experiencing change" (Klein, 2004). According to the U.S. census bureau (2005), 49.7% of U.S. households include married couples. This number has decreased by almost 3% in the past five years. Extended families often include persons not related by blood or marriages that simply have close ties to the family are also considered family.

What is the definition of family health nursing in your own words?

My definition of family health nursing is nursing which takes into consideration the entire family. I do not believe that the presence of matching DNA exclusively makes up a family. I agree with the University of Phoenix week two lecture which states "whomever is mentioned should be included as part of the family for the purposes of family nursing, planning, and intervention" (Kramer, 2007, p. 1). A patient may place more trust in a close friend and may rely on that particular person to assist him or her with medical decision making. As a nurse I believe encouraging



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