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South Carolina: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 8, 2013

What are the job responsibilities of a Public Health Nurse?

Should one decide to pursue a career in nursing what is the job description of a South Carolina public health nurse? What educational requirements might one need, to work in local community health clinics?

According to credible sources like the American Public Health Association, a Public Health Nurse serves a community’s needs in the medical field, in the areas of healthcare education, administration of primary care. In addition, they conduct management of the overall medical treatment prescribed by physicians to large populations, rather than one patient at a time as in a hospital environment, for example.

What educational requirements are necessary to become a Public Health Nurse?

Educational requirements vary from employer to employer; meaning, some employers may require an associate’s degree while others may desire a bachelor’s degree. All Public Health Nurses must be registered nurses (RN).

One key element that a potential nurse should consider is that they will work almost entirely with the general public. They work with diverse populations and experience multicultural issues on a daily basis. A nurse should possess some key qualities in the area of social skills, patients, and a desire to serve others, as these are essential skills when dealing with sick and/or dying people.

South Carolina: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

According to National Health Policy Forum data (2003), most community clinics in South Carolina are comprised primarily of patients who are single mothers, indigent persons, and the elderly. Community health centers were a part of the “War on Poverty” legislation and funding was approved during that time. Public Health Nurses will work in these diverse, often overcrowded and challenging environments.

South Carolina: Community Health Center Basics

• In South Carolina there are 162 federally funded community health clinics
• These clinics care for a total of 312,135 patients
• 7,979 of these patients are seasonal farmers
• 7,038 of these patients are homeless (NACHC, 2011)

South Carolina: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 75% 22% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 92% 43% 40%
Percent Uninsured 40% 19% 16%

South Carolina: Health Challenges

According to Kaiser Health News (2013), there are more than 1200 community health clinics that deliver health care to more than 20 million people in America. Kaiser`s report also places South Carolina in the “above average” range in the important areas of how they measure the delivery of quality care data—with the exception of three categories: Timely Prenatal Care, Hypertension Control, and Cervical Cancer Screening.

South Carolina: 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
South Carolina 71.18% 58.96% 62.54% 8.20% 49.54% 53.52% 88.12%
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

Salaries will always vary between employers to some degree; however, the median salary for nurses according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data is $64,000 per year. The average salary for Public Health Nurses is $51,000 per year. The field of nursing is already understaffed and shows a potential growth rate of 26% by the year 2020.

This number (26% of two million already employed nurses) equals a total demand of 700,000 new jobs in the field of nursing by 2020. If one is considering a potential career in this field, the prospects are quite good as the data plainly shows.

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