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Public health nurses and community registered general nurses (ONMSD)

Public health nurses (PHNs) are registered nurses with a specialist nursing qualification. They provide the core nursing and midwifery care in the community.

Community registered general nurses (CRGNs) support and contribute to community services.

PHNs and CRGNs are based in health centres and primary care centres. Care is also delivered in the home and clinic setting.

Role of the national lead for public health nursing (ONMSD)

The national lead for public health nursing is responsible for:

  • public health nursing strategy development and implementation
  • encouraging collaboration by promoting multidisciplinary working at both primary care and network level
  • provides support to the Directors of Public Health Nursing (DPHNs) national group to put in place organisation change
  • ensures that evidence based community nursing standards are in place nationally
  • ensures integration of public health nursing services with primary care structures including GP’s and practice nurses
  • promotes the use of Quality Care Metrics within community nursing and continuous quality improvement
  • manages change necessary to achieve organisational and primary care objectives


Ina Crowley - Project Officer, lead for the PHN Sponsorship Programme.

About public health nurses

Public health nurses (PHNs) in Ireland currently work as part of a multidisciplinary team.

PHNs offer guidance and information to clients about how best to meet their health needs, when they meet patients. PHNs assess whether other health professionals are required in the primary care team.

PHNs provide a generalist nursing service to a broad range of patient or client groups including:

  • older people who live at home
  • people who are chronically ill at home
  • people who are acutely ill at home
  • people who are dying at home
  • expectant mothers and mothers who have recently given birth
  • people with disabilities
  • people suffering social deprivation
  • members from the travelling community
  • children (settings include infant welfare services, child health services and school health services)
  • those who have contracted hepatitis C directly or indirectly from the use of human immunoglobulin-anti-D or from the receipt within Ireland of any blood product or a blood transfusion

About community registered general nurses

Community registered general nurses (CRGNs) work alongside the PHN. The primary focus of the CRGN is on individual patients and care of the older person.

The CRGN works closely with the PHN to assess plan and implement nursing care and works in the home and clinic environment. CRGNs undertake relevant education and training programmes relative to their role in community nursing.

Types of work and resources

Information about the work of PHNs and CRGNs and useful resources if you are working as a PHN or CRGN:

Clinical care

Both PHNs and CRGNs provide direct clinical nursing care to:

  • children and adults referred to the service from acute hospitals and GPs
  • self-referrals
  • referrals from all other sources.

All referrals received into the PHN service undergo a preliminary screening process. Referrals accepted to the caseload are then prioritised for a domiciliary or clinic assessment. Clinical services provided include but not limited to:

  • continence management
  • continence care
  • wound care
  • oncology support and end of life care
  • general nursing care to patients that are chronically ill or disabled

We collaborate with local specialist palliative care teams. Referral onwards to relevant services is provided.

Mothers, babies and child health

The PHN provides the following services to mothers within 72 hours of discharge from the maternity hospital service:

  • provides information and support about looking after a newborn baby.
  • conducts developmental assessments on the first visit.
  • provides information on breastfeeding support groups, well baby clinics and postnatal support groups.

The HSE provide the following services to school aged children:

  • A school hearing and vision screening programme for children attending primary schools.
  • A school immunisation programme for children attending public and post primary schools.

Mothers, babies and child health resources:

National Immunisation Office School Programme

Older people

PHNs and CRGNs provide a wide range of services to older persons. Services include:

  • holistic nursing assessment
  • onward referrals as appropriate to therapy and other allied health professionals.

PHNs carry out assessments using for example the InterRai. The InterRai is a comprehensive IT-based standardised assessment. It assesses the health and social care needs of people over the age of 65 years who may be looking for support.

Older people resources:

Services for Older People in Ireland

Cancer care

PHNs have an important role in caring for patients with cancer. PHNs provide care at home to patients undergoing cancer therapy. Care includes survivorship and palliative care.

Cancer care resources:

National Clinical Programme for Palliative Care Clinical Guidelines – Pharmacological Management of Cancer Pain in Adults

Palliative care

Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life for patients and their families when their cancer can no longer be cured.

As well as providing relief from pain, nausea and other symptoms, palliative care offers support and comfort to patients.

It involves caring for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. PHNs assess the holistic needs, palliative care/end of life nursing needs of all patients in the community.

Palliative care resources:

National Clinical Programme for Palliative Care Clinical Guidelines – Management of Constipation in Adult Palliative Care Patients

Health promotion

PHNs and CRGNs play a role in illness prevention and health promotion. PHNs and CRGNs play an important role in caring for the well and for the sick.

To ease that process, we must provide people with appropriate information. PHNs and CRGNs have a key role in providing that information in the form of health teaching.

Every interaction with a client can be an educational intervention. For example, when in a clinic or doctor’s office, if a patient comes in with a cut, it’s the perfect time to check the chart for the last tetanus booster.

Health promotion resources:


Public Health Nurses (PHNs) and Community Registered General Nurses (CRGNs) may come into contact with vulnerable people who may be exposed to the risk of abuse, harm or neglect. They play an important role in safeguarding both adults and children.

Under The Children First Act 2015 legislation, all mandated persons are required to report any knowledge, belief or reasonable suspicion that a child has been harmed is being harmed or is at risk of being harmed (pages 12 – 13, Children First Act 2015).

Safeguarding resources:

Healthcare associated infections (HCAI)

A healthcare associated infection (HCAI) is an infection that is acquired after contact with the healthcare services. HCAIs occur after treatment in hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and other healthcare settings including community settings such as the home.

It is important that PHNs and CRGNs take the necessary precautions to prevent and control HCAIs.

HCAI resources:

Employee resources

The following material may be useful in your role as a healthcare professional: