Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Research)


School of Health & Social Science

First Advisor

Dr. Tom Farrelly

Second Advisor

Ms. Sinéad Flaherty


Aim of Research: To understand and gain insight into the role of the Public Health nurse in rural communities in Kerry and Cork.

Background: Public health nursing is the single largest group in community care, current figure employed by the HSE stands at 1,438. Demographic, changes such as the increase in population coupled with the shift in care from the acute sector to primary care has provided many challenges to the PHN service .

Objective: Whilst there have been substantial reviews on the role and workload of the PHN in Ireland, there is limited qualitative research available on what the role of the PHN entails, particularly in a rural setting. Consequently, the primary objective of this study was to understand the working lives of rurally based PHNs.

Methodology: This study is based on an ethnographic approach using an interpretive paradigm to understand the practice of PHNs in rural areas of Kerry and Cork. A qualitative research design was utilised due to the holistic and humanistic nature of this research, using a combination of solicited diaries and semi-structured interviews referred to as the diary/interview method.

Key Findings and Conclusions: The complex role of the PHN has three facets one of a coordinator, clinician and educator. Challenges to the role of the PHN include the unpredictability of their workload, the environment, staff resource issues, and to the point that the PHN service was ‘“we’re it” the only service available. Operating in a rural area also brought its own trials such as time spent on travelling, transport issues, working in isolation and the paucity of services available. Communication was another important theme, which identified the absence of ICT as an obstacle that hinders progress in the PHN service.

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