Community Health Centres Work!
Community health centres experience little turnover in nursing staff. In fact, some nurses would never dream of leaving the community centre where they work.
Nursing at a community health centre is challenging. Nurses, for example, may be helping consumers struggling to maintain their health while living under barriers to access such as the restraints of poverty, homelessness, or unemployment and geographic isolation. Nursing at a community centre is also deeply rewarding. Nurses have opportunities to develop close, long-term relationships with the consumers.
The Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) is a provincial not-for-profit organization of community health centres. Each health centre is designed to meet the specific needs of an identifiable local population. The AOHC is composed of:
. 55 community health centres
. 10 aboriginal health access centres
. two community-governed health service organizations
. 15 associate community and health organizations.
At health centres, nurses emphasize illness prevention, health education, and community development. They address and raise awareness of the broader determinants of health such as employment, education, environment, isolation, and poverty. They respond to community health needs by providing programs such as a food bank, housing service, literacy counselling, prenatal nutrition programs, and teen birth-control clinics.
Unlike the fee-for-service model used in private practice, all staff including physicians are salaried. This means that staff can book 30 minutes for every appointment. For a full physical, an hour is set aside. It also means that there's time for nurses to really get to know the individuals who walk through the front door seeking relief for a specific pain or help for a larger problem such as domestic violence.
Breaking Through Barriers
Community health centres have expertise in serving people who have difficulty accessing other health services. In Ontario, distance can be a barrier. Health centres provide accessible primary health care services in both northern and rural communities. In some remote communities, many people are at high risk of ill health. The nurses in community health centres are helping turn that around through various health promotion initiatives.
The AOHC believes health care should be provided in a culturally appropriate way. Aboriginal health access centres, which serve individuals both on and off reserves, make traditional healing practices an integral part of their work. Aboriginal healing practices are complemented by Western medical approaches.
Other consumers may find it difficult to access health care because they speak a language other than English. If none of the staff speak the language of the consumer, a translator is hired.
Nurses Serve Important Roles
Nurse practitioners (NPs) work collaboratively with a physician or have their own practice. Nurses make up 43 per cent of the overall staff at AOHC centres. There are 118 NPs, 97 RNs, and 12 RNAs on staff. Nurses are offered competitive salaries and comprehensive benefit packages. In some centres, the nurses have voted to join the nurses' unions.
All nurses receive an extensive orientation, and there is funding for continuing education. Nurses are allowed up to 10 paid education days per year.
Nursing positions are predominantly full-time days, with rotating work on some evenings and weekends. The average number of staff per centre is 15, but there is a wide range. Sandy Hill in Ottawa, for example, has over 100 staff. AOHC has community health centres in all of Ontario's major cities, as well as in the Far North and rural communities and towns including Cornwall and Grand Bend.
Community Health Centre Locations
(CHCs, AHACs and CHSOs)
Central East Region:
Central South Region:
Central West Region:
Sault Ste. Marie
Thunder Bay (2)
South West Region:
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