How Do I Become a Public Health Nurse?

Do you have an interest in the field of nursing but want to help prevent injuries and illnesses in entire populations rather than treating individual patients only? If so, you may be wondering how to become a public health nurse. Public health nurses balance providing nursing care for individual patients with an awareness of public health concerns and responsibility for helping entire community populations. In the field of public health, nurses often perform roles such as educators and community advocates as well as offering traditional nursing care. Public health nurses typically find employment within non-profit organizations, community health centers and local governments.

Public health nurses observe and analyze health trends to determine which communities, neighborhoods and groups may be at risk for certain illnesses or health conditions. They are proactive, urging community members to improve their health and reduce their risks of diseases. Public health nurses often develop materials and education campaigns give presentations in order to raise communities’ awareness of health threats and inform community members of preventive care procedures, such as disease screenings and immunizations. Some topics that public health nurses often cover with community members include safety tips, nutrition and early detection of cancers.

As advocates, public health nurses work to make health care services more accessible. In communities where many families are uninsured or underinsured in terms of health insurance coverage, this work is especially important for increasing the overall health of the community. Public health nurses may consult with representatives from local, state and federal government agencies to establish health care programs for uninsured community members.

Like traditional nurses, public health nurses have the skills and knowledge to provide nursing care to community members as needed. When public health nurses work in this capacity, they often vaccinate children and care for elderly patients, unborn babies and newborn infants. In the event of a health emergency, public health nurses are trained to provide critical nursing care.

As in other fields of nursing, aspiring public health nurses must learn the required skills and knowledge through formal education in a college setting. Candidates should begin their career path by pursing an associates or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Once formal education has been completed, aspiring nurses should pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become qualified as a registered nurse (RN). Aspiring public health nurses must also acquire a thorough understanding of public health topics, health administration and public policy, often by pursuing an advanced degree.

In addition to the personal satisfaction of helping whole communities improve their health, public health nurses also enjoy a positive job outlook. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 26 percent job growth rate for nursing and health care fields during the 2010 to 2020 time period. If you have a passion for helping others and an interest in the field of nursing and health care, knowing how to become a public health nurse may be the start of a rewarding new career in healthcare.

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