Barriers and facilitators to the incorporation of environmental health into public health nursing practice.

OBJECTIVES: To describe the environmental health (EH) demands placed on public health nurses (PHNs) as well as the barriers and facilitators to incorporating EH into PHN practice.
DESIGN AND SAMPLE: A cross-sectional multimode (Web and pencil/paper) survey was used to collect data from PHNs in 1 rural western state. Research participants included 141 PHNs from a total of 228 survey invitations (61% response).
MEASURES: A 39-item questionnaire was developed to measure the frequency of EH demands experienced by PHNs as well as the barriers and facilitators to the incorporation of EH into PHN practice and standard demographics.
RESULTS: Significant numbers of PHNs reported less than baccalaureate preparation (29%), suggesting that EH competencies cannot be assumed. PHNs are often asked for basic EH information and cite lack of time and lack of interest on the part of the populations being cared for as barriers to incorporating EH into their practice. Facilitators included free or inexpensive continuing education programs offered via the Internet and additional Internet resources or staff resource people.
CONCLUSION: PHNs represent a significant portion of the public health workforce and have implied and explicit mandates to address EH issues in their practice. Resources should be directed toward helping PHNs become better prepared to address the current and future EH needs of populations.