The family, the basic social and economic unit of society, is an important factor in almost every realm of human existence. Through the years, the concept of family has evolved to adapt to changing societal patterns. Be it a nuclear or an extended family, it remains the most fundamental of human institutions (Grolier, 1995). It is where an individual takes roots. A family cares for and protects an individual since birth while he/she acquires the cultural behavior, beliefs, and values necessary for his own, and society’s survival (Ember and Ember, 1883).
Though the societal patterns and family patterns have evolved through the years, it is still imperative for most professions to take it into consideration. In the medical field and healthcare, the family plays an important role in striving to ensure every human being’s right to health. The nursing profession, which is social in nature, plays an essential role in maintaining and protecting the health of every family, which is the basic unit of every society.
The Family as an Important Focus for Nurses
Throughout history, the nursing discipline has responded and continued to evolve with the advent of advances in medical sciences, modern technology, technological and social forces, and changing health care delivery system. Aside from these material changes, numerous paradigm shifts have molded the nursing profession to what it is now. The different challenges at every junction of development were met by the nursing profession. Thus, functions of nurses in society had been modified and expanded to meet these challenges. From the traditional role of nurses as assistants to physicians, the nurses all over the world have embraced responsibilities apart from the traditional ones (Cuevas, 2007).
Despite the changes and paradigm shifts, the family remains an important focus of the nursing profession. Nursing is, in essence, a social service and a social profession. Looking after the well-being of a community, a nurse has to take into consideration its basic unit, the family, to rightly assess the level of health and to plan effective nursing actions and care. Since an individual belongs to a family, the prevention and cure of illnesses cannot be done without looking into family history, economic status, and social condition, among others.
The Family: Then and Now
All families begin with a mated pair but they rarely remain so simple in structure and function (Murdock, 1949). From tribal society to modern society, the family is still composed by people related by blood and/or marriage. From the predominant extended family structure setting in agricultural societies and subsistence economies to predominant nuclear family set-up in modern society, the family still is an institution to work for and safeguard the economic, emotional, cultural, and social security of its members.
Through the years, changing societal patterns have also made its mark in the family as an institution. Familial ties have considerably weakened, in my observation, in this era of the rat race where the race and struggle for economic security has seriously compromised family bonding time and interpersonal relationships. This also aggravates generation gap as each family member has their respective goals to attain in order to survive the rat race. In this time when everything is so fast-paced, interpersonal communication and interrelationships have suffered. In this era where “instant fixes” are readily available, an individual can troubleshoot common problems without the aid of family members. Family relations are being endangered by fast-paced lifestyle, a life ridden with stress, which also leads to other health concerns (Ember & Ember, 1985).
The Family Today
In advanced societies, nuclear families predominate and ties to relatives weaken (Grolier, 1995). In these societies, it is believed that this set-up can deliver the basic needs of its members on its own. Family functions turn inward, focusing more and more in private concerns. This veers away from the dominant set-up before the Modern Age which is the extended-family structure where the expansive network of kin or relatives provides a couple access to goods and services that they could not provide for themselves (Ember & Ember, 1985).
In the recent years, there is also a significant increase in the incidence of single-parent families and of divorces. The straitlaced concept of the “ideal” family is gradually eroding. Also, there is also increasing incidence of families where a parent or both parents work far away from home. This is prevalent in third world countries where many people are seeking greener pastures abroad. There is also an emerging phenomenon of same-sex marriages and family structure. More and more are getting out of the closet and establish homosexual relationships, a taboo in most societies but is increasingly being tolerated in many societies. Arranged marriages are also being frowned at by most societies. Also, more and more men women postpone marriage in order to establish themselves in cultural pursuits or simply to enjoy the relative freedom in being single. Furthermore, more and more couples are deciding, especially in industrial countries, to defer or not to have a child at all. These are but some of the important changes that characterize the family of today from that of the recent past (Grolier, 1995).
On Family Health Nursing
Family health nursing, for me, is a holistic approach where every member of the family is encouraged to improve their health status. From taking care of the unborn to prolonging life spans, family health nursing is not only practiced for the health of the family per se but it is also a prerequisite for national development. As they say, a healthy population is a productive population. From population programs to combating epidemics in the community, family health nursing also contributes to the stability and survival of a society (Murdock, 1999).
Family health nursing is a vital component of the nursing profession. Beyond the economic opportunities that come with the nursing profession, health care for the people at large is the most important consideration for a nursing professional. Though the concept of what a family is has evolved through these years, it still remains the basic fundamental unit of society. By starting at the grassroots, at the most basic unit of society which is the family, nursing professionals can work hand in hand with the medical and scientific communities and with different sectors of society to safeguard the public’s health, and consequently, that of a country. Though the family structure and function have evolved through the years, it still remains a vital consideration for any health program, from the planning stage to the implementing stage. By taking care of its basic unit, family health nursing plays a vital role in ensuring the survival of every society.
Cuevas, F.P. (2007). Public Health Nursing. London: Macmillan.
Ember, M. & Ember C. (1985). Cultural Anthropology. Prentice Hall.
Grolier Encyclopedia of Knowledge. (1995). Vol. 7. Grolier Inc.
Murdock, G.P. (1999). Social Structure. London: Macmillan.