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Maine – Use and Outlook for Public Health Nursing

Higher Education Articles September 29, 2013

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

Unlike a standard nurse that works for a hospital or a clinic and provides standard patient care or manages other nurses, a Maine public health nurse is involved in community service for an entire segment of a population. This involves providing both medical care as well as management health delivery programs for individuals and families within a targeted population often via community health clinics.

As a result, a public nurse tends to be more like a government program manager overseeing the provision of caseload services versus just one patient at a time. Through the provision of community medical services, public health nurses deliver health education to entire groups as well as improve general access to healthcare.

Many of the duties of a public health nurse can involve monitoring trends and risk behavior in a community, setting priorities for government intervention, advocating for additional services to underserved areas, and managing education campaigns.

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

General health education is a critical core component of anyone seeking a career path as a public health nurse. This educational background will be relied upon heavily in all sorts of tasks the nurse takes on. In most states, including Maine, a public health nurse is required to have education and practical proficiency to be licensed as a registered nurse. This includes having sufficient college credits to have been awarded at least an associate’s degree.

In some cases, some assignments require even more in the form of a bachelor’s degree. Finally, a public health nurse also needs to have passed the national licensing of the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), as well as state licensing mentioned above.

Maine: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

Public health nurses in Maine are primarily involved in government health centers designed to target underserved populations. This includes helping maintain a center to meet federal requirements to serve an identified Medically Underserved Population (MUP). Additionally, the organization has to maintain a non-profit status and be affordable for all members of the targeted population.

Considerably, public health nurses are often challenged with finding ways to keep a center funded without charging more fees to patients. Nurses are often in charge of managing and delivering federal reporting on the center’s activities. This often places the nurse dead center in the policy-setting management of the center along with its officers and board of directors. Maine itself has a number of such centers that serve a variety of populations.

Maine: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers: 133

Total Patients: 175,180

Seasonal Farm worker Patients: 1,760

Homeless Patients: 4,568

Maine: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or Below 100% of Poverty 44% 16% 21%
Percent at or Below 200% of Poverty 73% 36% 40%
Percent Uninsured 16% 10% 16%

Maine: Health Challenges

In terms of performance, public health nurses, entering Maine health centers right now, will see a statewide set of programs that are exceeding the national averages in terms of service delivery. In the major categories below, Maine public health nurses and centers have been performing above par compared to the nation.

Maine: 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
Maine 78.75% 87.25% 70.31% 5.17% 34.63% 66.20% 83.96%
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

Public health positions and related skilled demand will continue to grow, especially as a large portion of the population now begins to age into retirement. Although additional attention is being placed on the cost of health, public health nurses are playing a key role in helping with preventative health education on a community level versus the traditional approach of one-patient-at-a-time contact.

There is also a rising demand for public health nurses that can speak more than one language, particularly Spanish. Currently, the average salary for a public health nurse is $51,000, so competition with other nursing positions can be a reason why vacancies will continue to exist. However, many who work in the role do so out of a conviction to help underserved communities rather than just for a compensation level.

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