Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 31340
Exploring Communities of Practice through Public Health Walks for Nurse Education

Authors: Jacqueline P. Davies


Introduction: Student nurses must develop skills in observation, communication and reflection as well as public health knowledge from their first year of training. This paper will explain a method developed for students to collect their own findings about public health in urban areas. These areas are both rich in the history of old public health that informs the content of many traditional public health walks, but are also locations where new public health concerns about chronic disease are concentrated. The learning method explained in this paper enables students to collect their own data and write original work as first year students. Examples of their findings will be given. Methodology: In small groups, health care students are instructed to walk in neighbourhoods near to the hospitals they will soon attend as apprentice nurses. On their walks, they wander slowly, engage in conversations, and enter places open to the public. As they drift, they observe with all five senses in the real three dimensional world to collect data for their reflective accounts of old and new public health. They are encouraged to stop for refreshments and taste, as well as look, hear, smell, and touch while on their walk. They reflect as a group and later develop an individual reflective account in which they write up their deep reflections about what they observed on their walk. In preparation for their walk, they are encouraged to look at studies of quality of Life and other neighbourhood statistics as well as undertaking a risk assessment for their walk. Findings: Reflecting on their walks, students apply theoretical concepts around social determinants of health and health inequalities to develop their understanding of communities in the neighbourhoods visited. They write about the treasured historical architecture made of stone, bronze and marble which have outlived those who built them; but also how the streets are used now. The students develop their observations into thematic analyses such as: what we drink as illustrated by the empty coke can tossed into a now disused drinking fountain; the shift in home-life balance illustrated by streets where families once lived over the shop which are now walked by commuters weaving around each other as they talk on their mobile phones; and security on the street, with CCTV cameras placed at regular intervals, signs warning trespasses and barbed wire; but little evidence of local people watching the street. Conclusion: In evaluations of their first year, students have reported the health walk as one of their best experiences. The innovative approach was commended by the UK governing body of nurse education and it received a quality award from the nurse education funding body. This approach to education allows students to develop skills in the real world and write original work.

Keywords: Education, innovation. nursing, urban.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 1392


[1] NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) Standards for Pre-registration Nursing, 2010.
[2] D. Edvardsson, Sense or No-Sense: The Nurse as Embodied Ethnographer. International Journal of Nursing Practice. Feb 2007 Vol 13, I, pp 24-32.
[3] M. Nolan, J Brown, S Davies, J Nolan, J Kead The Senses Framework 2006. Sheffield University.
[4] V.A. Dickson-Swift and S. Kippin, Developing a Sociological Imagination: Teaching introductory sociology to nurses. Research Gate
[5] Department of Health Healthy Lives, Health People: Our strategy for public health in England. NHS: London. 2010
[6] G. Hicks and J. Allen, A Century of Change: Trends in UK statistics. 1999 House of Commons, London.
[7] M. Marmot Fair Society, Healthy Lives: A Strategic Review of Inequalities in England. London: University College London, 2010.
[8] G. Rayner and T. Lang Ecological Public Health, Reshaping the Conditions for Good Health; 2012 Earthscan from Routledge.
[9] C.J. Murray, (2013) UK health performance: findings of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 Lancet 381, 9871, 997-1020
[10] M. Roberts, Unhealthy Britain: nation's five big killers 2013 BBC news online available at
[11] H. Siddique, Top 10 causes of death in London boroughs highlight health inequalities: Differences between boroughs are described as a continuing scandal and revealed in Office for National Statistics figures. (2014) Guardian.
[12] Office for National Statistics Statistical Bulletin: Avoidable Mortalitity in England and Wales, 2012. Available at rel/subnational-health4/avoidable-mortality-in-england-and-wales/2012/stb-avoidable-mortality--2012.html
[13] R. Wilkinson and K. Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone. 2009 Penguin, London.
[14] T. Hancock The Evolution, Impact and Significance of the Healthy Cities/Healthy Communities Movement. Journal of Public Health Policy. 1993 14, 1, 5-18.
[15] Department of Health. NHS Plan ' a plan for investment., NHS: London 2000 Available at
[16] G. Wistow, Modernisation, the NHS Plan and Healthy Communities, Journal of Management in Medicine, 2001, 15, 4, pp 334-351.
[17] NHS Delivering Healthier Communities in London. NHS London Healthy Urban Development Unit Land Use Consultants and CREH 2007 (available on line
[18] E. Anderson (1999) The Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. W.W. Norton: New York.
[19] J. Green ‘Walk this way’: Public health and the social organization of walking, Social Theory & Health. 2009 7, 20–38
[20] Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
[21] R.Bryar and J Orr Chapter 3 The Community Dimension in Health visiting: a rediscovery, 2012, Ed. Luker, K, Orr, J. McHugh, G. Wiley Blackwell
[22] AR Public Health Walk Introduction, 2012, available at
[23] C. Holtham Stories & Organizations: the dérive as a tool for learning programmes. SparkNow. 2012, Available at
[24] C. Holtham, Happenings & Knowledge Promenades: Working Cross Discipline presentation at a Higher Education Academy workshop, 2013 Available on line at
[25] J. Davies ‘Public Health Walks: A Methodology for Taking Students into their Communities of Practice. November 2014 Blog available at