As America and the entire world, enters the second year of a global pandemic, the need for public health nurses has never been greater. Public health nurses make up the largest segment of professional nurses, with the latest estimates indicating they comprise 63% of the nursing workforce. They play a crucial role in disease prevention and in promoting public health and safety. Public health nurses are active in their communities, working to improve the health and well-being of residents.
In this article, we will explore:
- The responsibilities of a public health nurse
- Who public health nurses work with
- How much public health nurses make
- How to become a public health nurse
What are the main responsibilities of a public health nurse?
One of the primary responsibilities of a public health nurse is education. They share their knowledge of disease control and prevention within the communities they serve to help boost overall health. Public health nurses may visit senior centers, schools, and other community organizations as part of their education efforts. As frontline healthcare workers, they are the first line of defense against disease and illness.
Public health nurses have many responsibilities beyond public education. The Quad Council of Public Health Nursing Organizations sets the national policy agenda on issues relating to public health nursing. The organization established what it calls the 8 tenants of public health nursing that outlines the duties and competencies expected of all nurses who enter this sector of healthcare.
- Analytic and assessment skills. This includes population-based assessment, policy development, and evaluation of assurance processes to verify they are comprehensive and systemic.
- Policy development and program planning skills. Public health nurses must engage in advocacy with local, state, and federal agencies to improve access to healthcare services in underserved communities.
- Communication skills. Assessing the healthcare needs of communities – including underserved communities – requires solid communication skills. Public health nurses must regularly solicit feedback from individuals, families, and groups, especially when planning educational outreach or other healthcare events.
- Cultural competency skills. This applies to both the delivery of healthcare services and the collection and analysis of data that determine unique programs and services within culturally diverse communities.
- Community dimensions of practice skills. Public health nurses use this skill to identify research issues at the community level and to collaborate with community partners in the pursuit of health and well-being promotion for residents.
- Public health sciences skills. The primary emphasis is on preventative healthcare and the delivery of services that promote health and well-being to all community members. Information collected can help formulate unique programs and services, especially for underserved communities.
- Financial management and planning skills. A core responsibility of public health nurses is to seek out and manage healthcare resources within the community to ensure equity.
- Leadership and systems thinking skills. Public health nurses must advocate for underserved communities. This includes identifying and reaching out to potential healthcare partners and agencies willing to help provide equal access to healthcare services and programs.
Who do public health nurses work with?
One of the biggest advantages to working as a public health nurse is the versatility the position offers. They can work with community health centers, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Nursing professionals who would like a career in the military can work as Army public health nurses. Once enlisted, they are tasked with assessing the risks in Army communities, promoting the overall health and wellness of soldiers, and developing healthcare programs designed to limit the spread of disease.
How much does a public health nurse make?
According to Indeed.com, the public health nurse’s average salary is $67,524 as of April 23, 2021. There is the potential for an additional $11,250 per year in overtime wages. Demand for public health nurses will continue to rise as the need for community-based healthcare grows. At present, the top five highest-paying locations are:
- Washington, D.C. at $114,101
- Albany, N.Y. at $106,587
- Atlanta, GA at $100,344
- San Francisco, CA at $91,454
- Buffalo, NY at $59,527
How public health nurses are paid depends on where they work. Some healthcare systems pay hourly wages, while others offer fixed annual salaries. Those nurses on hourly pay scales qualify for overtime.
How to become a public health nurse
Before you can work as a public health nurse, you must first obtain your RN licensure. To become an RN, you must earn a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited four-year nursing program. As with other nursing professionals, public health nurses are required to take CEUs to maintain their licensure. CEUs that focus on community health are crucial for staying relevant in your field. Incredible Health offers free CEUs for public health nurses. Create your free account today to get started.