What Does a Public Health Nurse Do?
All nurses work with patients from the communities surrounding the health care facility. This means that in essence, all nurses deal with public health. However, public health nurses work more specifically in this area, striving to improve the health of the public and educate the community on health issues that are prevalent in the area. Many public health nurses work with specific populations, such as young children living in poverty. Their work is akin to social service work because they provide aid to those in need. These nurses identify populations that are at risk for health issues and work to remedy specific ones, such as the lack of clean water or malnutrition. Most public health nurses work in public health clinics that offer low cost medical services to patients and perform procedures such as immunizations, blood pressure testing, and a variety of other health screenings. Some also participate in formulating work safety regulations as well as shaping public health policies so that certain populations will more likely see a benefit in terms of health and happiness.
How Can I Become a Public Health Nurse?
Those who are interested in becoming a public health nurse must first earn licensure to work as a registered nurse (RN). Becoming a registered nurse can be achieved in three educational paths: with a diploma, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree. These degrees can be earned from an accredited and approved nursing program. Students should take plenty of classes related to public health policy and other topics related to public health nursing so that they may gain a firm knowledge of the field. After completing the program, prospective nurses will need to successfully complete the NCLEX-RN examination to obtain licensure to practice. To increase chances of employment, nurses can gain voluntary certification for community and public health nursing from the American Public Health Association. This certification shows that an individual has met a standard of public health nursing education and skill. Continuing education in health policy is also recommended to keep public health nurses up to date with health care practices and laws.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Public Health Nurse?
The nursing field is the biggest employer in the health care industry. Approximately 2.6 million jobs belong to registered nurses, and that number is projected to grow in the upcoming years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Undoubtedly, job opportunities for public health nurses will increase as well, especially with the population boom taking place all across the nation. As city sizes swell, communities will grow, further increasing the demand for these nurses to tend to their respective communities. Nurses in this specialty field earn an average of $53,207 annually, according to PayScale. However, this figure can vary depending on the nurse’s level of education, years of experience, employer, and geographic location. Those working in facilities that are part of a bustling metropolitan area tend to be paid more than those who work in suburban or rural areas. In addition, nurses with more advanced degrees are also more likely to get positions of higher authority, which would earn higher pay as well.