Public health nursing is a field that deals with promoting good health through the knowledge of social, nursing, and public health sciences. Unlike regular RNs who treat specific patients or work in a specific hospital or clinic, public health nurses work in an entire community helping the public. Here is some general information on this very special field of nursing

What is Public Health Nursing?

This particular field of nursing is vital to a community because they’re trained to identify health risk factors, and they alert the public to specific health trends and what preventative measures should be taken. They also educate and promote good health to at-risk communities. The public health nurse advocates with government authorities to implement health education and disease prevention services.

They work in community groups, schools and senior centers promoting early detection of common illnesses and help people take better care of themselves. Their services might include providing well-baby and prenatal care, immunizing children and teaching elder and low-income individuals how to remain safe and healthy.

In an effort to improve public nursing, the American Nurses Association encourages public nurses to focus on specific areas of importance and in need of education. This includes the following.

  • Infection prevention
  • Immunizations
  • Opioid crisis response
  • Environmental health

How to Become a Public Health Nurse

Becoming a public health nurse requires education, work experience and a commitment to helping a community. First, the candidate must earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which typically takes four years. Aspiring public health nurses typically choose a public health nurse concentration. A nursing program includes coursework, lab classes, and clinical education.

The first two years are generally spent completing general education and nursing courses. The nursing student spends the final year or two completing the clinical portion by working in a hospital or healthcare facility. Once the program is completed, the candidate must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure. Licensure requirements vary by state.

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Places a Public Health Nurse Might Work

Public health nurses generally work more in groups than with one specific patient. Although they mostly work in public health departments, they also work in other settings. Once they earn their degree, public health nurses may choose the setting that is most in need of their services or the one that most holds their interest. Nurse Journal reports that public health nurses may find work in the following settings.

  • Community clinics
  • Schools
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Voluntary organizations
  • Government organizations

Career Outlook for Public Health Nurses

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a job growth of 15 percent for registered nurses between 2016 and 2026. RNs who specialize in areas like public health tend to improve their wage potential. According to a March 2018 report by PayScale, public health nurses earned a median annual wage of $55,157. Factors like the employer, years of work experience, degree level and geographic location also play a role in determining wages.

This specific area of nursing continues to be in demand mostly because of the many new issues in our society today. Not many people truly understand the depth of a public health nurse’s workload throughout the day. Whether it’s in school, homes or out in the community, public health nursing is a field that’s constantly busy.

Source: American Nurses Association