Public health nurses focus on populations instead of just individual patients, although they do work with individual patients a great deal of the time. They typically work for government or private agencies, including schools, health departments, ambulatory care clinics, and retirement communities. They work to improve the overall health of the community in which they work. They plan and implement health-related programs. They teach individuals and groups about health issues like preventative care, nutrition, and childcare. They arrange for immunization clinics, blood pressure testing, cholesterol level testing, and other health screening clinics. They often work closely with teachers, parents, physicians, and community leaders. Their main goal is to work with local governments to correct health problems that face particular communities.
Public health nurses need to have well-developed communication skills, and the ability to observe accurately and make decisions accordingly. They must be able to work with patients who are sometimes reluctant to cooperate. They need to be able to honor the wishes of their patients. They must be willing to work with a team, as well as supervise others. Due to the intense nature of the work, public health nurses should be emotionally stable and have a sympathetic disposition.
In 2002, public health nurses earned a median annual salary of $48,090. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10 percent, who earned less than $33,970, to the highest 10 percent, who earned more than $69,670.
Training and Education
Public health nurses can become certified by the American Public Health Association (APHA). They must also become registered nurses (RNs) by earning their nursing license. In order to obtain a nursing license, which is required by all 50 States and the District of Columbia, students must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination. Candidates have three different options for educational paths leading to certification as a registered nurse. The first option is obtaining a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN). BSN programs are offered through colleges and universities and take 4 years to complete,. The second option is an associate degree in nursing (ADN), offered through junior and community colleges, which takes 2 to 3 years to complete. The third option is a 3-year diploma program administered by hospitals. All three types of programs qualify students to be hired as a registered nurse, but BSNs provide graduates with the most opportunity for advancement within the nursing profession. In fact many nurses certified through ADN or diploma programs go on to enter bachelor’s programs. Click here to see a list of Nursing Schools, and/or to contact their admissions departments for more information.
In 2002, registered nurses, including public health nurses, held approximately 2.3 million jobs, making the occupation the largest in the healthcare field.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of public health nurses is expected to increase faster than the average. More new RN jobs are expected to be created than any other occupation, mostly because of the need to replace aging registered nurses as they leave the profession. Factors such as the growing elderly population, general growth of healthcare, rising median age of registered nurses, increased emphasis on preventative treatment, and technological advances will keep registered nurses, including home health nurses, in high demand.