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North Dakota: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 6, 2013

What Does A Public Health Nurse Do?

The responsibility of any public health nurse (including a North Dakota public health nurse) varies tremendously depending on the city or county in which the nurse is working, as well as the actual institution. However, in general, public health nurses are required to respond to community necessities related to healthcare.

This could include everything from an outbreak of influenza to issues related to sexually transmitted diseases. Public health nurses often work in community health clinics, providing care to those who might otherwise fall through the cracks and never obtain decent healthcare.

What Education and Professional Training are Public Health Nurses Required to Obtaining?

Public health nurses are not eligible for employment until they have managed to obtain certification as registered nurses (RN). This certification is typically achieved while attending an accredited four-year institution or shortly thereafter.

Nurses in training are often required to take part in practicum experiences or clinical, so that they are able to build up a certain level of comfort working with patients. Advancement may be possible for public health nurses able to obtain higher degrees or forms of certification.

North Dakota: Challenges a Public Nurse May Face

A number of challenges face the average North Dakota public health nurse, especially as more and more people travel to the state to find jobs. Despite recent population increases, there has not been a significant increase in allocations to community health clinics. Thus, nurses are expected to divide limited time and material resources between members of a continually rising population.

Included below is information related to the number of community health clinics in North Dakota as well as the populations they serve:

North Dakota: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 83
Total Patients 170,925
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 1,271
Homeless Patients 10,386

North Dakota: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 72% 14% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 96% 31% 40%
Percent Uninsured 31% 12% 16%

North Dakota: Health Challenges

Despite great competition for resources at North Dakota’s community health clinics, the state continues to retain reasonable numbers in terms of percent uninsured and poverty. This is good news for the future of health care in the state. Other great indicators include statistics related to prenatal care and low birth weight.

Considering that so many mothers are receiving adequate prenatal care (71.83 percent, as opposed to less than 60 percent in many states), the number of babies born at a low birth weight is relatively small (less than 4 percent of newborns). Current concerns in the state’s health care system include low rates of childhood immunization and cervical cancer screening.

Diabetes Control Timely Prenatal Care Hypertension Control Low Birth Weight Childhood Immunization Cervical Cancer Screening Asthma Therapy
North Dakota 74.73% 71.83% 65.92% 3.9% 49.83% 64.92% 71.4%
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.

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