Community health workers and professional nurses: defining the roles and understanding the relationships

Public Health Nurs. 2005 Jul-Aug;22(4):360-5. doi: 10.1111/j.0737-1209.2005.220413.x.


The use of community health workers (CHWs) has been advocated in both developed and developing countries for many years. This article reports the findings of a descriptive research study that explored the relationship between CHWs and nurses working in resource-poor settings in South Africa. The findings of the study highlight dimensions of complex interactions occurring between these two main providers of care at the district level. Understanding the primary interaction of CHWs with nurses offers further understanding of the broader role of CHWs within the district health system. It is evident that CHWs are ideally suited to play a pivotal role in supporting the public health services. However, their role and functions are not formalized and the effectiveness of programs is often not rigorously evaluated. This article discusses some of the issues related to this cadre of health worker and their role in public health care structures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Community Health Nursing / education
  • Community Health Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Community Health Workers / education
  • Community Health Workers / organization & administration
  • Community Health Workers / psychology*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Mentors / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff / education
  • Nursing Staff / organization & administration
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • Prejudice
  • Qualitative Research
  • South Africa
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workload