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Arkansas: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 6, 2013

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

While most nurses care for one patient at a time, an Arkansas public health nurse is responsible for caring for the entire community. These individuals work to monitor health trends and identify risks in the community. They educate citizens about health related issues while working to improve the health of the community as a whole.

Their focus is on areas ranging from education about general safety to expanding the access of health care access in the community.

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

In order to work as an Arkansas public health nurse, the applicant must first become an RN (registered nurse). Interested applicants may earn this designation by earning either an associate’s degree or a bachelor degree. They must also pass the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses).

In addition to having those basic requirements, the nurses may want to posses some additional qualities like the willingness to work with diverse communities, strong organization skills, interest in the community, and passion. It can also help tremendously to be bilingual as these nurses frequently work with people who speak multiple languages.

Arkansas: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

Federally funded public health clinics provide many of the same services as any other clinic. However, these clinics typically work with lower income people who may be uninsured or under-insured.

The majority of people who visit these clinics are under 65, most of them are women or children, and a great deal of them does not speak English as their primary language. The following statistics explain the current state of public health clinics in the state of Arkansas.

Arkansas: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 12
Total Patients 150,669
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 682
Homeless Patients 2,135

Arkansas: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 71% 22% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 94% 49% 40%
Percent Uninsured 42% 19% 16%

Arkansas: Health Challenges

There are unique challenges and advantages to being an Arkansas public health nurse. On the positive side, the majority of women in the state get timely prenatal care, and the percentage of low birth weight babies is relatively low.

However, less than half of women in the state get regular cervical cancer screenings and the number of children who get vaccines needs to be higher.

Arkansas: 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
Arkansas 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.

Low Birth Weight is the only measure for which a lower number is better.

Job Outlook for a Public Health Nurse

The job outlook for an Arkansas public health care nurse is positive. Nursing is a quickly growing field, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there should be a 26% increase in the number of nurses in the country over the next decade.

The salary potential is also positive in this field as the median income for nurses is $64,000 per year, and this number is expected to grow.

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