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Kansas: Outlook and Challenges for Public Care Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 3, 2013

What are Public Health Nurses?

A Kansas public health nurse provides services and education regarding the health of the general public. Their primary goal is to improve the health and welfare of entire populations and communities. Public health nurses generally work in federally-funded community health clinics. Some of the most responsibilities of these nurses include the following:

•Monitoring health trends so they can isolate specific risk factors unique to segments of the population
•Setting local priorities through educational/health campaigns to provide the best health care to as many people as possible
•Advocating for underserved communities to work with the state and federal government on improving health services
•Educating people within a community about health care services they might not know about
•Providing direct health care for at-risk populations

Sometimes this type of nursing involves significant behind-the-scenes work. This might mean tracking current health trends, especially those involving contagious diseases and risk factors that affect communities.

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

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

A BSN is a four-year bachelor’s degree incorporating more extensive class and clinical work in nursing. This type of degree usually takes about 15-18 months of university schooling beyond the associate’s in nursing required to be an RN, and many colleges and universities offer an RN to BSN program to make the transition easier.

A BSN results in significantly broader job opportunities than a basic nursing license. It also enables nurses to interact with patients on a more in-depth basis. When they graduate, nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in order to obtain the more advanced certification.

Kansas: Challenges a Public Health Nurse Might Face

Public health nurses in Kansas 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.

Considering that they normally work in federally-funded community health centers, public health nurses have to deal with more government regulations and policies than private health clinics. They also work with insurance companies and individuals to provide the best health care possible on an individual basis. 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 Kansas, highlighting different features of the communities they serve. The first chart shows the amount of Kansas’s population that takes advantage of these federally-funded public health centers.

Kansas: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 13
Total Patients 133,765
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 5,319
Homeless Patients 5,771

Kansas: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 72% 18% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 95% 38% 40%
Percent Uninsured 54% 13% 16%

Name of State: What Public Health Nurses can expect at Community Health Centers

One of the positives of Kansas health care is that significantly more individuals diagnosed with asthma were taking asthma medications to keep it under control at the time of the study. However, in many other categories, Kansas falls behind the national average, with a much higher occurrence of low birth rates (13.78%, compared to the national average of 7.4%) and fewer women between the ages of 24 and 64 getting cervical cancer screenings.

Diabetes Control Timely Prenatal Care Hypertension Control Low Birth Weight Childhood Immunization Cervical Cancer Screening Asthma Therapy
Kansas 66.5% 60.56% 58.20% 13.78% 42.11% 37.23% 30.50%
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, and it seems demand will continue for some time. In 2010, the median salary for a public health care nurse was $64,690 per year—that’s about $31 per hour. Openings for public health nurses and other registered nurses are expected to grow 26% between 2010 and 2020. This is a significantly higher growth rate than that of most occupations.

Nurses are not easily replaceable. They do much of the “dirty work” and serve as a go-between between doctors and patients in many cases. Nurses provide a level of quality care that no one else in the health care system can provide, and in doing so, they fill major health care system needs and help make the world a healthier, more educated place. Because of this unique position, they have excellent job security, and a promising, secure future career.

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