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Nebraska: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles September 29, 2013

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

A Nebraska public health nurse is a critical component in managing the wellness of the population. Community health clinics integrate neighborhood activities and involvement with the health management of the residents. It is the job of the health nurse to apply the education and training to care management practices for the area. Most nursing careers are about one-on-one patient care, a public health nurse, however, looks at the community as a whole to determine vulnerabilities.

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

A public health nurse is an RN with at least an associate’s degree who meets the requirements to get state certification. The exact job specifications will depend on the employer and the region that nurses work in. In most cases, advanced education such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree will be a benefit to improve job options and open up career possibilities.

Public health is a distinctive specialty. Nurses considering this path should display:

•Openness toward cultural diversity
•A desire to work with low-income and under-served individuals and families
•The ability to create activities to enhance the community health

Having bilingual skills improves job opportunities as well since many areas need nurses who are fluent in both Spanish and English.

Nebraska: Challenges a Public Health Nurse may Face

In the United States, there are approximately 1,200 community health centers that work to service primarily low-income and uninsured families. A community health center is federally funded and monitored. The government measures the quality of care each organization provides for the community. The data below lists the averages for the health centers in Nebraska.

The population

Number of federally-supported health centers: 27
Total Patients: 63,033
Number Seasonal Farm worker Patients: 487
Number Homeless Patients: 2,737

Nebraska: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 59% 13% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 93% 33% 40%
Percent Uninsured 57% 10% 16%

Nebraska Health Challenges

Overall, the state of the Nebraska manages healthcare issues well. They exceed the national average in controlling diabetes; ensuring children get proper immunizations and getting treatment to asthmatics. One area that requires additional work is decreasing incidents of low birth rate in infants. The national statistic in this category is 7.4 percent while in Nebraska, the range is much lower at 5.67 percent. Another key area that requires attention is hypertension management. The national number is seven percent higher than reported in this state.

Nebraska: 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
Nebraska 79.21% 68.04% 56.61% 5.67% 53.82% 59.92% 87.38%
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 an industry with an outlook that continues to improve. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects job opportunities for nurses to rise as much as 26 percent by 2020. Currently, the BLS reports that a registered nurse makes a median salary of $64,000 each year. Public health nurses tend to make a little less. The average pay rate for a public health nurse is $51,000.

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