How to Become a Public Health Nurse

How to Become a Public Health Nurse

Public health is an essential discipline that focuses on preventing infections and diseases, promoting overall health and wellness, and prolonging life among a variety of populations. Public health nurses are registered nurses that focus on the health of populations.

What does a public health nurse do?

Public health nurses are committed to the overall health and wellbeing of a variety of communities. They are responsible for planning and employing health programs and educating groups and individuals about health issues such as preventative care, infection and disease prevention, immunizations, childcare, and nutrition. Public health nurses often set up blood pressure and cholesterol testing sites, immunization clinics, and other clinics for health screenings. They are also responsible for identifying the common health issues in communities and developing effective intervention programs.

What kind of training does a public health nurse need?

Public health nurses must become registered nurses by completing a diploma, associate degree, or bachelor degree in nursing. Many employers prefer applicants that have a bachelor degree in nursing. Aspiring public health nurses typically complete courses in environmental health, biostatistics, epidemiology, public health practices, and infectious diseases. All states require registered nurses to be licensed. Licensing requirements include completion of an approved nursing program and passing a national examination.

Many public health nurses gain professional certification from the American Public Health Association (APHA). Public health nurses must complete annual continuing education courses to maintain their licenses and certifications, keep their skills up to date, and stay abreast on advancements in the field. Many employers offer continuing education courses, seminars, and conferences.

What are the prospects for a career as a public health nurse?

Employment of all registered nurses is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 23% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing and aging population and increased emphasis on public health will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be excellent especially for public health nurses with extensive experience and professional certification. Many job openings will arise from the need to replace public health nurses that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do public health nurses make?

As of December 2009, public health nurses with less than 1 year experience earn average hourly rates between $12.64 and $23.40. Those with 1 to 4 years experience earn average hourly rates between $18.21 and $26.93 (2).

A career as a public health nurse is an excellent choice for individuals that have a strong interest in public health and promoting the overall health and wellness of a variety of communities. Public health nurses must have a solid understanding of public health practices and policies and apply them to a variety of situations. Motivation, patience, critical thinking, and good problem solving skills are desirable characteristics. Public health nurses must also have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and ability to interact with the public and other professionals.

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