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Colorado: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 6, 2013

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

A Colorado public health nurse is one who works to promote good health throughout the entire community. These nurses may be engaged in education campaigns, or they may work to expand access to healthcare throughout the community. Their roles vary, but they typically work with under-insured, uninsured, and poor patients.

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

Any registered nurse may become a Colorado public health nurse. In order to become a registered nurse, the applicant must complete an associate’s degree or a bachelor degree in nursing, and they must pass the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses).

As these jobs often require the nurse to work with diverse populations, the applicant may wish to be culturally open-minded and have compassion for poverty stricken, homeless, or uninsured individuals. Being bilingual can also be an incredible advantage in this career.

Colorado: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

Federally funded health clinics provide similar types of care as any other health clinic. However, they often tend to provide more pediatric and gynecological care than most general clinics as most of their patients are women and children.

Nearly a third of the patients who visit these clinics do not speak English as their first language, and nearly two thirds of the patients are from minority ethnic or racial backgrounds.

The following statistics create a picture of the public health clinics in Colorado.

Colorado: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 15
Total Patients 458,075
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 11,857
Homeless Patients 30,077

Colorado: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 73% 17% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 94% 32% 40%
Percent Uninsured 42% 14% 16%

Colorado: Health Challenges

A Colorado public health nurse will see a lot of challenging things and a lot of positive things in this state. These nurses may notice that nearly half of the population does not have their asthma under control, or that only 61% of women get the cervical cancer screenings that they need.

However, these nurses will also note that most women in Colorado get timely prenatal care, and thus that there is a low rate of low birth weight babies in the state.

Name of State: 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
Colorado 66.29% 69.66% 61.15% 7.55% 31.99% 61.35% 53.88%
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

The job outlook for a Colorado public health nurse is good. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of nurses in this field is expected to grow over the next decade. The growth should be even more pronounced as more and more laws are passed to increase access to health care for poor or uninsured people.

The salary potential is also good, and, in fact, the median yearly income for these professionals is just over $64,000.

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