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Alaska: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles September 28, 2013

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

Within their state of employment, an Alaska public health nurse is responsible for ensuring that populations remain fit and well-informed on topics of their own health choices. Although they work with patients in community health clinics, they are also responsible for providing quality healthcare at the population, family and individual level, and ensuring that underserved communities are educated and have health needs met.

What Education, Professional Experience do you need to become a Public Health Nurse?

Public health nursing is a subset of Registered Nursing. RNs are required to hold an associate’s degree or, depending on where and for whom they work for, a bachelor’s degree. Once they have that, they must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses as well as any standards set by their state. They will also benefit from work experience with the public during their education.

Alaska: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

Federally Qualified Health Centers, also known as community health centers or community health clinics, are where most public health nurses work. These non-profit organizations are funded under Section 330 of the U.S. Public Health Service Act, providing medical, dental and mental healthcare, to underserved patients in low-income regions.
In Alaska, those working as or wishing to become public health nurses should be aware of and stay up to date on the following data trends.

Alaska: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 25
Total Patients 87,802
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 67
Homeless Patients 1,938

Alaska: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or Below 100% of Poverty 52% 21% 21%
Percent at or Below 200% of Poverty 86% 40% 40%
Percent Uninsured 36% 18% 16%

Alaska: Health Challenges

The good news is that public health nurses working in Alaska can expect their patients to have their diabetes under control as well as to seek timely prenatal care (within the first trimester of pregnancy). Low birth weight also tends not to be a problem. Unfortunately, Alaska residents also have a fair share of health challenges that have so far not been addressed.

Not even half of the population is ensuring childhood immunization or cervical cancer screening regularly, and of those with asthma, only about a third of them are on mitigating drugs. Hypertension control is also an issue that needs addressing.

Alaska: What Public Health Nurses can expect at Community Health Centers

Diabetes Control Timely Prenatal Care Hypertension Control Low Birth Weight Childhood Immunization Cervical Cancer Screening Asthma Therapy
Alaska 68.59% 72.90% 59.83% 6.48% 29.43% 47.65% 30.92%
U.S. Average 70.9% 70.0% 63.3% 7.4% 43.8% 57.8% 69.1%

What the Numbers Mean

Diabetes Control: The percentage of adults, age 18 to 75, with diabetes who have their blood sugar under control, defined as an HbA1c under 9 percent.

Timely Prenatal Care: The percentage of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester.

Hypertension Control: The percentage of adults, age 18 to 85, with hypertension who have their blood pressure under control, defined as under 140/90.

Low Birth Weight: The percentage of babies born with birth weight below 2,500 grams.

Childhood Immunization: The percentage of children who receive 10 federally recommended vaccines by 2 years of age.

Cervical Cancer Screening: The percentage of women, age 24 to 64, with at least one Pap test in the prior three years.

Asthma Therapy: The percentage of patients age 5 to 40 who have persistent asthma who receive asthma drugs.

Job Outlook for a Public Health Nurse

Public health nurses, as members of the Registered Nursing field, can look forward to many of the same rewards and benefits as RNs. These days the rewards are more than simply career fulfillment, since working as a public health nurse can be quite well paid.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay was $64,690 per year in 2010, while the number of jobs for 2010-2020 is projected to climb 26%. This means it is a wonderful time to work as a public health nurse.

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