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Michigan: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 6, 2013

What Does a Public Health Nurse Do?

A Michigan public health nurse works with groups, families and individuals to promote health and wellness in a community. Public health nurses work in community health clinics and elsewhere, using an inter-disciplinary approach to identifying at-risk individuals and groups, advocating good preventative health practices and helping vulnerable populations receive health care and health education.

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

Education requirements vary among different public health nursing positions. The minimum education required for a Michigan public health nurse is successful completion of a certified registered nursing program and subsequent licensing by the state of Michigan as an RN. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is preferred.

Michigan: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

Public health care nurses in Michigan and elsewhere around the United States face a couple of challenges. Community health clinics, where most public health care nurses are based, are subject to public funding, which is never secure. In addition, many of the clinic patients are poor and poorly-educated and often have difficulty understanding the importance of the health care imperatives that public health care nurses stress.

The nation’s more than 1,200 federally-funded community health clinics offers a variety of services, including primary health care, cancer screenings, well child care and chronic disease management.

Recently, the US government began measuring the quality of care received at community health clinics. The data below includes the most recent information available looking at the averages of health centers’ clinical performance in Michigan.

Michigan: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 171
Total Patients 537,847
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 16,858
Homeless Patients 15,659

Michigan: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 69% 20% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 92% 39% 40%
Percent Uninsured 34% 13% 16%

Michigan: Health Challenges

Michigan is keeping pace, with national averages, in number of community clinic patients whose diabetes and hypertension is controlled. The state even exceeds the national average in cervical cancer screenings for women. However, Michigan faces two large health challenges. The number of pregnant women receiving health care in their first trimester lags behind the national average.

That perhaps leads to the number of low birth weight babies being born, in Michigan, to be a full percentage point higher than the national average. Another area that needs attention is access to asthma therapy for Michigan community clinic patients with breathing disorders. The Michigan average in this area is 20 percent lower than the national average.

Michigan: 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
Michigan 70.45% 67.76% 63.14% 8.38% 35.97% 59.70% 57.86%
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

Nursing is a growing occupation in the United States, in part because of the increasing attention to preventative health care and an aging population. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a registered nurse in the United States makes an average annual salary of $64,690 or around $31.10 per hour.

Public health nurses tend to make less than the average since they often work for government agencies or non-profit organizations. Public health nurses make an average of $51,000 annually.

The BLS estimates that the number of nursing jobs will increase in the United States by an average of 26 percent over the next eight years, creating more than 700,000 jobs.

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