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Florida: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 3, 2013

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

A Florida public health nurse expands on the base challenges of patient care. Nurses at community health clinics are responsible for the general well-being of an entire region. This role requires the nurse to integrate an understanding of health and wellness with community action and involvement. This public health professional uses nursing education to manage the health environment of the entire population.

What education, professional experience do you need to become a Public Health Nurse?

A public health nurse is a licensed registered nurse, or RN, with at least a two-year degree from an accredited school. The exact qualifications depend on the location and program the nurse is considering. A bachelor’s degree would be an added benefit for anyone looking to work in this area. With an advanced education, Florida public health nurses improve their opportunities for employment and career advancement.

A public health nurse should be:

•Open minded regarding the culture and its diversity
•Comfortable serving low-income families
•Exhibit a passion for educating people in a creative forum

Nurses with bilingual skills are in high demand for public health positions.

Florida: Challenges a Public Health Nurse may face

Community health centers are sometimes the only medical care available for low-income and uninsured residents in Florida. Currently, over 1,200 such health offices in the United States serve more than 20 million patients.
Most of the patients are under the age of 65, and suffering from a chronic condition such as diabetes, asthma or hypertension. The federal government monitors the care quality in these facilities. The data below offers recent information about the averages of health centers in Florida.

The population:

Number of federally-supported health centers: 358

Total Patients: 1,040,464
Number Seasonal Farm worker Patients: 68,100
Number Homeless Patients: 70,494

Florida: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 70% 21% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 88% 41% 40%
Percent Uninsured 49% 21% 16%

Florida: Health Challenges

Compared to other states, Florida faces some challenges when it comes to health management. The national average of diabetic patients who control their blood sugar levels hovers around 71 percent. Florida reports slightly lower numbers in this area. Only 68 percent of diabetics in the state have their blood sugar levels under control.

Woman receiving proper prenatal care also falls short in Florida. The national average is 70 percent with Florida showing just 57 percent. On the positive side, the state does better than average managing patients with asthma.

Florida: 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
Florida 68.39% 57.16% 59.26% 8.07% 36.23% 52.68% 76.77%
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 Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that an RN makes a median salary of $64,000 per year. A public health nurse brings in $51,000 yearly. That number will vary by program and location. Overall, the nursing industry is booming.

The available jobs will grow over the next few years by as much as 26 percent, according to BLS. That means an additional 700,000 new jobs in nursing by 2020.

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