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Indiana: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 6, 2013

What Does a Public Health Nurse Do?

An Indiana public health nurse works with government-funded, and non-profit, organizations to promote health care in populations that are often health care challenged. Such nurses are RNs and work in community health clinics and other, similar sites to educate the public about wellness care, help individuals manage chronic health issues and identify and help at-risk populations within the community.

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

An Indiana public health nurse must first be an RN and thus have completed a certified nursing program and be licensed by the state of Indiana. A Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing is preferred.

Indiana: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

The nation’s 1,200 community health clinics, and nurses who staff them, face a number of challenges. Funding for government-funded entities is always an issue and rarely secure. In addition, most health clinics work with patients who are often poor and less-educated than the general population and may have difficulty understanding the importance of care and behavior promoted at the clinic.

Community health clinics in Indiana offer a variety of health care services. Among these are well child care, primary care, chronic disease management and cancer screenings. In an effort to standardize the level of care received at these clinics throughout the United States, the US government has recently begun measuring the quality of care at federally-funded clinics.

The data below includes the most recent information available looking at the averages of health centers’ clinical performance in Indiana.

Indiana: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 89
Total Patients 258,867
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 5,284
Homeless Patients 11,966

Indiana: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 79% 21% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 97% 40% 40%
Percent Uninsured 37% 14% 16%

Indiana: Health Challenges

Indiana’s community health care clinics are doing many things very well. The number of women receiving cervical cancer screenings exceeds the national average as does the number of children receiving recommended immunizations.

The state’s clinics should also be very proud of their performance in making sure that those suffering from asthma receive the medicines they require. The Indiana number exceeds the national average by more than 11 percentage points.

However, Indiana lags behind the national average significantly in the number of pregnant women receiving pre-natal care during their first trimester and in the number of clinic patients who are successfully controlling their hypertension.

Indiana: 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
Indiana 70.83% 64.28% 59.57% 7.17% 44.67% 62.64% 81.51%
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 Nurse

The number of nursing jobs, in Indiana and throughout the United States, continues to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there will be more than 700,000 new nursing jobs created in the United States by the year 2010. The average salary for a registered nurse in the United States, according to the BLS, is $64,690.

Public health nurses, since they work for government-funded or non-profit organizations, tend to make less. The average annual salary for a public health nurse is $51,000.

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