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Louisiana: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 4, 2013

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

Public health nurses are tasked with providing high-quality care to patients coming from a broad spectrum of backgrounds. These nurses not only provide individuals with education on health issues, but also strive to improve community health and safety as well as broaden and improve access to care. Instead of merely waiting for patients to arrive at hospitals with an illness, they often venture, into the community, to promote preventative health care and the prevention of disease.

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

A Louisiana public health nurse is required to be licensed as a registered nurse (RN). Public health nurses must also possess an associate degree at the minimum. Depending on the job description, those wishing to become a public health nurse must also have a bachelor degree in nursing. There is also a demand for nurses capable of speaking bilingually, usually in English and Spanish.

In addition to education and professional experience, personal qualities also come into focus when it comes to public health nursing. Since Louisiana public health nurses work with diverse populations, having the following qualities and skills is an absolute must in this field:

•The ability to work with individuals and families from low income and under-served backgrounds
•Acceptance and openness toward cultural diversity
•Willingness to travel across significant distances to meet with community groups

Louisiana: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

Community health clinics function as primary care providers for low income individuals and families. In many areas, these facilities act as the sole providers of mental health, substance abuse and dental services for the medically underserved. The federal government is now measuring the quality of care given, at these clinics, to ensure that patients are receiving the proper care. The following data provides information on the average performance of community health clinics within the state of Louisiana.

Louisiana: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 24
Total Patients Approximately 203,000
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 2,418
Homeless Patients 11,780

Louisiana: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 79% 25% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 96% 45% 40%
Percent Uninsured 45% 17% 16%

Louisiana: Health Challenges

Louisiana ranks slightly above average when it comes to childhood immunizations and asthma therapy. Unfortunately, the state ranks below-average when it comes to patients receiving care for diabetes and hypertension control. The state also ranks poorly when it comes to the number of women seeking cervical cancer screenings, when compared to the national average.

Despite the state having a higher than average percentage of pregnant women, seeking timely prenatal care, the state has a much higher percentage of babies born with a low birth-weight than the U.S. average.

Louisiana: 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
Louisiana 66.88% 76.75% 57.56% 12.00% 48.69% 48.04% 73.21%
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

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public health nurses can expect to make a median annual salary of approximately $51,000. This figure can vary depending on nursing experience as well as the employer. Meanwhile, registered nurses make a median annual salary of $64,000. There are currently 2 million individuals employed as registered nurses.

By 2020, experts predict the number of jobs available for registered nurses to increase by 700,000, a 26-percent increase over today’s employment population.

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