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California: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles September 29, 2013

The California Public Health Nurse is a job that involves treating the entire community. Public Health Nurses work in Community Health Clinics and use clinical skills, in addition to providing education, and outreach to their patient population. There are challenges that public health nurses face, which are addressed in the following paragraphs. This is a rewarding career that balances the struggle to care for the poorest people of California with the creative ability to design and teach at risk populations.

What does a Public Health Nurse Do?

A Public Health nurse utilizes clinical experience to render care to patients by understanding how health and illness impact that population for which a Public Health Nurse cares. One key difference between a standard nurse and a public health nurse is that the public health nurse cares for an entire population where a standard nurse cares for one patient at a time.

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

The minimum educational requirement is simply a valid RN License that is in good standing. It is highly recommended that public health nurses also hold a BSN or bachelor’s of Science Nursing degree. Other helpful skills include classes that teach nurses how to create education and prevention programs, along with conducting public outreach campaigns. Be political and engage the political community for lobbying support. Care for populations that are at-risk.

California: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

Compliance is a truly large challenge because it is often tied to federal funding. This is especially challenging because services must be offered on a sliding fee scale or offered when there is no ability to pay by the patient. The political challenges include developing a board of directors that maintains a majority membership of people who use the clinics services. Funding is also a challenge because not all funding will be provided by the federal government. Patient population is also a challenge as community clinics serve a variety of transient populations. Homeless patients and seasonal farm workers often make up a portion of the patient population. Providing education and outreach to transient populations is difficult.

California: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 1,144
Total Patients 2,937,212
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 381,519
Homeless Patients 214,872

California: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 79.00% 24.00% 21.00%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 96.00% 44.00% 40.00%
Percent Uninsured 49.00% 19.00% 16.00%

California: Health Challenges

Two challenges that are positive are maintaining the below national average percentage levels for diabetes and low birth weight. These lower than national average percentage indicate that California community programs are positively impacting the health populations. Challenges that represent improvement to community healthcare education, outreach, and services would be to lower the above national average percentage of timely prenatal care, hypertension, childhood immunizations, Cervical Cancer Screenings, and Asthma Therapy.

California: 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
California 70.04% 75.40% 65.42% 5.70% 56.13% 63.10% 76.26%
U.S. Average 70.9% 70.0% 63.3% 7.4% 43.8% 57.8% 69.10%

Job Outlook for a Public Health Nurse

Job outlook for public health nurse is positive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the RN job market in general is expected to grow at 26% through 2020, which is faster than the nation average job expansion rate. The median pay for an entry level RN is $64,690 annually or roughly $31.10 per hour. There are an expected 2 million plus jobs forecast for RN’s through 2020, which means that competition for jobs is expected to be low.

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