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Family Health Nursing

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Essay title: Family Health Nursing

This paper will discuss the importance of the family health nursing for today’s nurses. It will also discuss the importance of understanding the history of the family and how it has changed and evolved. The paper will explore the concept of what constitutes a family today and will include a personal view of family health nursing.

Family as an important focus for nurses

In the ever-changing world of technology in the healthcare setting, it is important not to overlook the family as a very important part of caring for the patient. (Farvis, 2002 p.1) The family is an extension of the patient and one is dependent on the other members for providing emotional and physical support. “The family is the most important element in achieving and maintaining a society... there needs to be learning from within the family for individuals to be members of a society“. (Segalman, 1998 p.1) “A family is important to bring about a state of happiness and meaning in life to an individual and for future development and growth.” (Segalman, 1998 p.2)

As people are living longer and requiring increasing care after hospitalization, the family can play an integral part in this care. Families are considered a valuable resource for information regarding the patient. They can provide information to assist in the care of the patient and planning his or her care after discharge.

The nurse needs to evaluate the health of the family to determine how it will influence the patient’s progress. Many studies “reveal that family health and the health of the family members are strongly correlated.” (Smith, 2002 p.3) Berkley and Hanson suggest the health of the family is dependent upon the balance between the stressors the family experiences and the strengths the family displays. (Smith, 2002 p.3) How a family deals with stress is important to the cohesiveness of the structure. An illness of one member in a family with problems can add to the stress within the family.

Understanding the family structure, function, and dynamics can have an impact on how the patient responds to treatment and healing. Many factors can contribute to problems in the family such as divorce or friction between family members. What affects one family member can have an impact on everyone.

Changing family

To understand how the family is changing, one must understand the history of the family. Throughout history, a traditional family consisted of a father, mother, and children. The extended family lived close and functioned as a group. The industrial revolution began a change in the family structure as families moved to different parts of the country. The family structure also changed with women’s liberation and divorce resulting in single-parent households. Gay and lesbian movements changed the structure of the family from heterosexual couples to same sex parents. The movement of marriage being a requirement for a family to a choice has weakened the family structure. With today's families scattered all over the country, the matriarch, or patriarch of the extended family is far less able to keep his or her kin united, caring, and supportive of one another. “In these disconnected nuclear families, certain trends—workaholism, alcoholism, depression, severe stress, isolation, escapism, and a push toward continuous supervised activity for children.” (Laslett, 2002)

The family today

“Family refers to two or more individuals who depend on one another for emotional, physical, and financial support.” (Stanhope, 2004) Another definition of the family is “two or more people who are committed to each other and who share intimacy, resources, decision-making responsibilities, and values; people who love and care for each other”. (Smith, 2002 p.1) Today’s family can consist of the traditional members to stepparents, single parents, same gender parents and also grandparents as well as friends. Within the family, the structure has evolved from the traditional nuclear family to a variety of combinations. Today, married families have a different structure with parents who both have careers, to stay at home parents or commuter parents and grandparents raising grandchildren. Single parent families could be those who have never married, are divorced, or are widowed. Extended families could include a parent or grandparent living with the family as well. Religious and cultural issues also must be considered when defining a family. In most cultures, the family is seen as the basic social unit,

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