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Idaho: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Care Nurses

Higher Education Articles September 28, 2013

What are Public Health Nurses?

An Idaho public health nurse provides services and education regarding the health of the general public. They are primarily concerned with the health and welfare of entire populations and communities and generally work in community health clinics.

Public health nurses focus on educating the public about health and disease prevention. This may mean initiating public health campaigns to motivate the public to take healthy measures.

Sometimes, public health nursing involves more behind-the-scenes work such as tracking trends in contagious diseases and weighing other risk factors members of a community face. Public health nurses often advocate for underserved groups, within a community, to ensure they receive a high standard of health care.

What education or professional experience do you need to become a public health nurse?

Public health nurses must hold an RN license. This means they must have at least an associate’s degree in nursing and relevant experience. Depending on the type of position you’re interested in, a BSN (Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing) might be required.

A BSN is a four-year degree incorporating class work on nursing, patient care, medicine, and more exhaustive nursing information. This type of degree usually takes about 15-18 of university schooling beyond the associate’s in nursing required to be an RN.

A BSN results in significantly broader job opportunities and the ability to interact with patience on a more in-depth basis. Upon graduation, nurses are required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in order to obtain certification.

Idaho: Challenges a Public Health Nurse Might Face

Public health nurses in Idaho deal with significant challenges that often test their dedication and flexibility. Many public health nurses work in public health clinics, which serve a typically low-income, young, largely female population.

Webs of tangled insurance policies and state policies combine with the public’s need for high-quality health care, and public health nurses must weigh the cost of options for both remedial and preventative patient care.

The following charts give an overview of public health centers in Idaho and different features of the communities they serve. The first chart shows the amount of Idaho’s population that uses federally-funded public health centers.

Idaho: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 61
Total Patients 121,329
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 11,422
Homeless Patients 6,780

Idaho: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or Below 100% of Poverty 66% 19% 21%
Percent at or Below 200% of Poverty 95% 42% 40%
Percent Uninsured 53% 17% 16%

Idaho: Health Challenges

In a recent study by the Kaiser Institute, Idaho residents scored just lower than the U.S. average in a survey measuring whether or not common ailments or preventative measures are under control or being addressed.

Only about three-fifths of Idaho residents diagnosed with asthma were actually taking medicine for it at the time of the study, less than 75% of diabetics had their diabetes under control, and only 37% of women between the ages of 24-64 had had cervical cancer screenings. With these rates even lower than the national averages, public health nurses have their work cut out for them.

Idaho: 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
Idaho 72.33% 66.89% 65.21% 6.87% 34.86% 37.86% 62.51%
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 Care Nurse

Public health nurses are in high demand. In 2010, the median annual salary for a public care nurse was $64,690—about $31/hour. Openings for public health nurses—and other registered nurses—are expected to grow 26% between 2010 and 2020, a significantly higher growth rate than that for most occupations.

Nurses are a vital, integral part of the American health care system; they provide the quality of educated care that no one else can, filling a need to work with other health care professionals, to serve the public—excellent job security, and a promising outlook for the future.

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