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Missouri: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 4, 2013

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

The Missouri public health nurse interacts with the community to provide education and health care to high-risk families and individuals. Federal and state funded community health clinics exist to serve people that are low income or without primary medical care. Public health nurses frequently work out of these centers.

They are concerned with how diseases such as influenza might affect the community, especially the aged, children and those with suppressed immune systems. They provide a resource for education to those with little awareness of their health or health issues.

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

One must be a registered nurse (RN) and have passed the state exam to be able to practice in the state. Some positions may require a bachelors degree, while other advanced positions may require a master’s degree. Nurses in this role enjoy working with a diverse population of people. They work effectively with low-income or under-served families.

The public health nurse has a love of education and a passion to help people to understand their health issues. In some environments, the nurse may need to speak multiple languages (such as English and Spanish) in order to be able to effectively communicate with the people in the community.

Missouri: Challenges a Public Health Nurse may face

There are 1,200 community health centers throughout the US. People come to these centers because they have no insurance and cannot afford to go to traditional medical facilities. They are reliant on these centers for their health care needs. Oversight of these facilities is by the federal government and state bodies.

The following chart displays the distribution of care delivered to people through the community health centers located in Missouri. The data was collected by the National Association of Public Health Centers for a 2010 report on public health care performance.

Missouri: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 177
Total Patients 392,785
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 1,477
Homeless Patients 17,007

Missouri: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 75% 19% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 96% 38% 40%
Percent Uninsured 36% 14% 16%

Missouri: Health Challenges

Missouri is making above average progress in controlling diabetes and working with children born with a less than healthy weight. The state is slightly below the national average dealing with prenatal care, blood pressure (hypertension) control, cervical cancer screening and treatment of asthma. The state is well below average in childhood immunizations, down 17% from the national average of 43%.

There are many factors that influence these numbers and some will be different from state to state. To understand the low immunization percentage, the public health nurse would need to understand the various communities and cultures being approached to vaccinate its children.

Missouri: 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
Missouri 72.77% 67.86% 61.09% 9.03% 26.88% 51.55% 65.15%
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 and Statistics within the US Department of Labor, the nursing field (RNs) can anticipate a growth in demand of 26% through 2020. This is due in part to people living longer, being more conscious of their health and health issues, and the availability of more sophisticated diagnostic techniques and treatment options.

The average median salary for a registered nurse is $64,690. The salary of a public health nurse varies based on the location, role and level of responsibility. They can expect a current base salary of $51,000.

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