McMaster University

McMaster University

Community Partnerships & Community Health Nursing

McMaster Nursing ... More Than You Think

Community Nursing Students presenting at fair


What is community health nursing?

Community health nursing includes Public Health Nursing (focused on health promotion and illness prevention) and Community Health care (focused on care at home or in community settings). Nurses in Community Health engage in many roles.

McMaster Nursing graduates are prepared to be Coaches, Surveyors, Cultivators, Navigators, and Explorers


Why is community health nursing important?

Community health care is the best option for most people. Care in the community is a planning direction and focus of the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care with much more spending on home and community care. For more details:  “Ontario Introduces Legislation to Further Improve Patient Access and Experience"


How does McMaster help students prepare for a career in community health?

In our program, students develop scientific knowledge to improve understanding of health and factors relevant to promoting health for individuals, families, communities and populations.

During this time they also engage in professional practice experiences which require the application of this knowledge to practice in communities and community settings (see map).

McMaster nursing students have:

  • enabled communities to collect and analyse information to support grant applications to fund community projects
  • developed health education materials with communities tailored to best meet their needs and preferences
  • assisted with language classes (in class practice with newcomers), literacy for children (reading buddy) and with the McQuesten Urban Farm

Student nurses at McMaster complete required courses where they learn in and with communities from the first year through to their final year as a nursing student. Students learn about the health care system, societal trends, culture and the importance of these factors and economics in health for individuals, families, communities and populations. Community health experiences include working with children, youth, older adults, seniors, helping others live well with chronic diseases such as diabetes, mental illnesses or addictions. Collectively, this theoretical knowledge with community experiences help prepare nurses for many roles in community health.

Students who completed Service Learning:

Leah Kelly, year 2:  “By working with community members, service learning has helped me improve my interpersonal skills and confidence interacting with others. It also has helped me become more aware of the diverse cultures that exist in my community.”

Sophia Florece, year 2:  "Service learning placement has allowed and challenged me to apply the professionalism of nursing into a non-clinical situation. It showed me that nursing is more than just the clinical skills, but rather the communication skills and emotional intelligence that a future nurse needs to develop."

A student who completed Community Professional Practice:

Sydnie Alexander (graduated 2016): "Prior to my community placement with the RPN-BScN program at Mohawk-McMaster, I had not been exposed to community nursing.It was one of my favourite placements and really opened my eyes to how many areas of nursing there are outside of the hospital. Community nursing is particularly important given the direction health care is moving in Ontario. Patients are going to be seen more in their homes and specialized clinics, with hospitals being reserved for only the highest acuity patients. I will be starting my Master of Science in Nursing through a flexible partially online program via UBC Okanagan's campus. My focus is going to be on clinical practice and within that I hope to focus on both public and community health.The path I'm pursuing in my career and academically is a direct result of my community nursing experience.”

A student who completed a global health placement:

Katie Chong, who did a placement in Zambia: “This experience changed me as nurse and as a person. Not only was I able to gain an understanding of this population from a clinical perspective, but I was able to immerse myself into the culture of the village of Macha, and begin to understand how this shaped the population’s health as well as their healthcare.”


Who are our community partners?

McMaster Nursing has a long history of involvement with communities and community health with placements in all of the major agencies involved in community health including a few unique programs and services such as Refuge (Hamilton Centre for Newcomer Health).

The McMaster BScN program includes a number of required courses about community health, from local settings in downtown Hamilton, to surrounding rural areas and global health which includes northern outpost or International opportunities. See: GLOBAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE.

In addition there is one elective course (Hlth Sci 3HN3), "Partnering with Hamilton Neighbourhoods for Health".

A student who completed "Partnering with Hamilton Neighbourhoods for Health" (an Elective course): 

Stephanie Jones, year 4: "This course really helped open my eyes to how we can work in an interdisciplinary team to make change in the community. We were able to interact with students in business, arts and science, kinesiology and many others to help members of our community accomplish a goal. We were able to form a connection with Nancy and Fatima in the Crown Point community of Hamilton, attend their meetings and understand what the health of their community means to them. To me, community health is about being out there and getting to know what the community needs to improve their overall health. It's seeing how they live and what we as nurses can do to help them.In particular, our community was interested in how arts can impact the health of a community. This was a great learning experience because it allowed me to do research outside of the typical pharmacological and impatient medicine-based treatment. When I graduate, I will be prepared to approach community health from a more holistic manner."

Agencies who host McMaster nursing students in the community have commented:

Local Action Planning team at McQuesten. Pat Reid, its former Chair, said: “Community health students helped survey our neighbourhood to identify health priorities such as food security, community safety, and jobs. We had a community garden and started a job board on one of our spaces at the centre. Now we have an urban farm which produces fresh produce which we distribute at our centre and we run a Bistro as well as a job club. Student activities in our community are helping our community improve lives. Most recently we had a Nurse Navigator who was able to connect people to what they needed, for example, Ontario Disability Support, City Housing and Ontario Works.”


Where do our students work after they graduate?

McMaster BScN graduates work in many settings across Canada and beyond.

They work in Public Health units (for example, Niagara, Hamilton, Brant County, Halton, Peel) and in  Community Care organizations  such as VON, Bayshore Home Health Care, St Elizabeth Home Health Care, Indwell and Family Health Teams in Hamilton and other areas. For example, read about alumni Michele Boersema, Program Manager at Public Health Services, City of Hamilton

Others work in international settings such as Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. See news story: “Toronto nurse Kirsty Robertson cared for hundreds in cave in Syria”.

Siobhan Eastman works with Primeros Pasos, a health care organization in Guatemala.
Siobhan Eastman says: “Through my education received at McMaster, I gained a good understanding of how social determinants of health can predispose some individuals to illness, and as a result, their ability to recover. This has been a great asset to me as I work with the Indigenous populations in both Canada and Guatemala and see first hand the health inequities. Community health nursing has helped shape my practice. I cannot ignore the importance of acknowledging these determinants with each individual I care for. It has caused me to focus on health promotion and provide additional resources to support change and innovation.”

For more information:

Local Partnerships

International Partnerships


Related Topics


Dr Olive Wahoush
Associate Director
Newcomer Health, Community and International Outreach
Telephone: (905)525 9140 ext 22802


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