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Arizona: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles September 27, 2013

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

An Arizona public health nurse is responsible for knowing the ins and outs of the populations, with which they work in their home state. Especially as these nurses work in community health clinics, in underserved communities, it is vital that they keep families and individuals, under their care, healthy and well-informed about their public health choices. They are also responsible for drawing, on these populations, to make informed decisions and understand data trends within the healthcare field.

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

Public health nursing is contained under the umbrella of Registered Nursing. RNs are required to hold an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, depending on their preference and the preference of their employer. They also must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses and meet standards set by their state. During their education, any work with the public will benefit them greatly.

Arizona: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

Most public health nurses work in Federally Qualified Health Centers, also known as community health centers or community health clinics. There are nearly 1,200 of these community health centers, and they provide care to more than 20 million people across the country, often low-income citizens with little or no insurance.
In Arizona, those working as or wishing to become public health nurses should be aware of and stay up to date on the following data trends.

Arizona: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 16
Total Patients 384,287
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 11,525
Homeless Patients 16,477

Arizona: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or Below 100% of Poverty 78% 25% 21%
Percent at or Below 200% of Poverty 95% 45% 40%
Percent Uninsured 26% 19% 16%

Arizona: Health Challenges

On the upside, the number of babies born in Arizona at a low birth weight is below the national average. Additionally, those with hypertension and diabetes are successfully controlling it at around the national average rates. Asthma therapy is close to the national average too.

Unfortunately, other health factors within Arizona community health centers are not quite as favorable. Cervical cancer screenings are being conducted on less than half the population, as are childhood immunizations (though the latter is in line with national averages as well). The number of expectant mothers seeking timely prenatal care is also low.

Arizona: 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
Arizona 67.72% 57.19% 67.41% 6.49% 43.73% 45.71% 62.27%
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

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for Registered Nurses (of which public health nurses are a subset) was $64,690 per year in 2010, while the number of jobs for 2010-2020 is projected to climb 26%. This is higher than the national average, which means employment will continue to be easier to find than in many fields.

That means more than 700,000 new jobs by the year 2020, which in turn means it is a wonderful time to work as a public health nurse.

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