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Becoming a Public Health Nurse

Scott Miscall

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The realm of the public health nurse involves working to prevent infection and disease, work to promote health and wellness, and help to generally prolong and improve life for many people. Public health nurses are full registered nurses, but instead of focusing on one patient at a time, they specialize in providing healthcare for populations. A public health nurse works to increase the overall health and wellness of a community. They plan and implement health programs, speak to groups about health issues, provide educational information to individuals about immunizations, childcare, infections, and nutrition, and more. They may set up and operate blood pressure or cholesterol test sites, help provide immunizations, and provide free health screenings. Some public health nurses are responsible for identifying, evaluating, and creating solutions for health issues that affect the entire community.

Public health nurses need to be interested in promoting health and wellness, especially to different types of communities and people within those communities. They need to understand public health policies and practices, which means they will need to be able to read and understand government documents. They also need to be motivated, have good critical thinking skills, and have excellent problem solving skills. Because they may be out working with the public and may even engage in public speaking, they will need to have good communication and interpersonal skills.

If you want to become a public health nurse, you’ll need to first enter into a program that will allow you to become a registered nurse. While some two year associate’s degree will prepare you for this, receiving a four year bachelor’s degree will give you more training and preparation. Plus, employers are more likely to hire a public health nurse who has a four year degree over a two year degree. During your studies, you will take classes on public health practices, infectious diseases, biostatistics, environmental health, and epidemiology. To become a registered nurse, you will have to complete the national examination in order to receive your license. You may also want to go on and become certified as a public health nurse by the American Public Health Association. Once you have your licenses, you will have to do continuing education courses every year.

The public health sector is expected to grow faster than many other professions. One projection shows that there will be 23% more jobs in the area by 2016, a fairly high growth rate. Part of this will be because a large number of current nurses are approaching retirement age. Another reason for the large number of new jobs is that the population as a whole is aging, plus the population has been growing as well. With more people and more older people, the need for public health will increase. Those with several years of experience and with their professional certifications will find it easy to secure a nursing job in public health. The salary for those with experience is fairly high as well.


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