Public Health Nurse
A public health nurse works within a community to improve the overall health of the area’s inhabitants, as well as educate them about illnesses and health conditions.

Public health nurses work to limit the spread of disease by coordinating advanced patient care and providing education to the public about diseases and health conditions.

Typical Job Responsibilities

Responsibilities for a public health nurse (PHN) can range from vaccination administration and health examinations for intake, to areas such as knowledge of community resources.

Other duties can fall into non-traditional nursing categories such as disaster management. This can include responding to crises such as terrorist threats, natural disasters, or disease outbreaks. Public health nurses could be the first response team to mitigate damage within affected populations.

It is often important for a public health nurse to be culturally aware of the people they serve, and it may be helpful if they are bilingual.

Work Environment

The working environment for a PHN can vary from a typical hospital setting to migrant camps. Other settings can include: government organizations, non-profits and community organizations.

Specializations of Public Health Nursing

Fields of public health nursing include, but are not limited to:

Community Health Advocate

Nurses in this field generally work closely in local communities. Their primary goal is disease prevention and knowledge advocacy. Much of this career path is concerned with empowering local communities to promote healthier lifestyles in the attempt to prevent chronic disease and illness. Specific areas of interest can range from childhood obesity prevention to promotion of longevity projects.

Army Public Health Nurse

This field of nursing develops healthcare plans for active duty military and their families. Additionally, they may work closely with base leadership to develop the plans. Nurses in this field face unique challenges and cultures surrounding the Armed Forces.

Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

The primary responsibilities for nurses in this job are prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. Prevention is concerned with preventing disasters, while preparedness focuses on implementing plans for when these disasters do occur. Response deals with treatment of individuals affected by the events, and recovery focuses on the long-term healing of individuals, families and communities.

Education and training requirements

Entry level education for this field often requires a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), while certain specializations may require a Master’s in Nursing (MSN). Advanced training and education can positively impact career advancement opportunities in this field.

Nurses must graduate from an accredited nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Advanced credentialing may be obtained at the Master’s level for public health. An advanced degree in public health or nursing must be obtained as well as at least 2,000 hours of work experience.

Job outlook and salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a PHN is 66,640 annually. In addition, the employment of all registered nurses is projected to grow 16% through 2024, a rate significantly faster than the national average for all other occupations.

If acting in a wide range of capacities and moving outside of the normal duties of nursing sounds intriguing, then a career as a public health nurse may be a good fit for you.

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James LoPresti has a journalism degree from the University of South Florida and has more than eight years experience working in print media. His work has been published in The Tampa Tribune, Iowa Gazette and on Yahoo Sports.


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