How nurses address the social determinants of health and the supports they need

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Social determinants of health, or causes of the causes as they’re popularly known amongst social and health workers, are those social conditions that determine the health risks and impacts of a group of people.

In the words of the World Health Organization, the way an individual is born, where they live, and their societal status are all contributory factors to their health outcomes. Consequently, the lower someone’s socioeconomic status is, the higher their risk for health problems simply because their basic needs for food, clothing, shelter and safety aren’t being met.

 In other words, your access to safe and affordable housing, education, and public safety can be just as important as your access to healthy foods, quality medical care and environments free from toxins.

How health care providers, nurses, especially, address these conditions have long been identified as one of the leading solutions to what has been a long-lasting challenge.

Nurses are essential figures on the frontlines of patient care, being highly regarded for fostering strong patient relationship, and driving a quality patient experience. So, naturally, this puts nurses in a good position to address the social determinants of health. How they do it; that’s what we aim to first highlight in this post.

Role of nurses in addressing Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) On-demand

Generally speaking, the strategies adopted by nurses, and other health care practitioners in addressing SDOH, are regarded by the National Academies’ Committee as the “5As” strategies. And they include:

  • Awareness
  • Adjustment
  • Assistance
  • Alignment
  • Advocacy

Awareness

Nurses can address SDOH by sensitizing their patients on the social risks and assets that exist within their immediate neighborhood. By asking patients to answer social risk screening questions that relate to their care and care planning, nurses bridge the gap between patients knowing about the resources available to them and them actually accessing those resources.

Adjustment

Instead of addressing social needs directly, nurses can pursue a strategy that focuses on adjusting clinical care to address social determinants of health.

Assistance

Nurses can pursue strategies to connect patients with social needs to government and community resources that actually provide those resources. By recommending relevant social services to patients, nurses can help patients find healthcare assistance, as well as funding means. Unfortunately, it can be tough recommending a support service to a patient if you don’t know their full story. Luckily for nurses, that’s an area where hospital management software like the C3S app can help.

For example, if a patient is suffering from a depression disorder. A major SDOH could be an addiction. Now, using the C3S on-demand app, nurses can collect vital patent details while the patient is visiting their health organization and then use this detail to recommend an addiction social support system within the immediate environment of the patient.

Through care manager software, C3S can help social workers and nurses gather relevant patient information and more easily see the full picture. Remember, it’s easy to treat the cough, it’s more difficult to know that a smoker at home is inhibiting a patient’s progress. But if you have an assessment system that allows you to deduce the socioeconomic conditions affecting the patient from home, it becomes easy to combat the source of the problem.

Alignment

Nurses can pursue an alignment strategy that assesses the social care assets in the community, organizes those assets to promote teamwork across organizations, and invests in assets to impact health outcomes.

Advocacy

In further bid to address SDOH, nurses can team up with social workers, case worker, non-profits, and other relevant organizations to advocate for policies that promote the creation and distribution of assets or resources to address SDOH.

For example, nurses can work with existing non-profits to call for policy changes to change how people are allowed to use/abuse certain substances in a given community if the prevailing SDOH is addiction-related.

Supporting nurses to address SDOH

For nurses to discharge all the obligations stated above, it is crucial that they themselves get enough support. Here are some of the most-pressing supports that nurses need.

Education about SDOH

First and foremost, nurses need to be educated on all things SDOH for them to be able to address the subject. Community-based nurses need to be sensitized on what SDOH are, the various types that are there, how each one may lead to health complications, how they impact healthcare costs, how to screen patients, and how to help patients get the necessary help they need.

However, simply discussing the SDOH during nurse training may not cut it, especially when it comes to nurses based in rural areas who may not have access to timely training services. A better approach would be for leaderships to integrate SDOH into nursing curricula so that students can understand, reflect, analyze, and apply content to potential future encounters.

Staffing support

Each patient that a nurse tends to is bound to exhibit their own type of individual SDOH. Now, when you consider the number of patients that an average nurse has to tend to, coupled with other clinical duties, it’s almost impossible to expect them to discharge their SDOH duties properly without getting enough assistance.

This is why organization leaders are implored to provide nurses with adequate supports. The support can be in the form of assistance from community health care workers, social workers, physicians, and other allied health professionals.

Resources and partnerships

At the end of the day, the joy of a nurse addressing SDOH is to find viable resources and willing partners to which they can refer patients. It doesn’t matter whether they have the required education and get all the necessary support from other professionals if there are no resources or partners to refer clients to, then nothing can be achieved.

Organization leaders must ensure nurses have adequate information about these community resources. They can even introduce tools like C3S to them so that they can use it to help connect patients with any realistic social care solution that is within their immediate environment.

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