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South Dakota: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 6, 2013

What Does A Public Health Nurse Do?

The responsibilities of nurses employed in public health can vary tremendously depending on the location of the employer. For example, a public health nurse working at a larger community health clinic in a Sioux Falls suburb may deal with different issues than a South Dakota public health nurse obtaining employment in a reservation clinic.

The general responsibility of the South Dakota public health nurse is to respond to community health care needs. This may involve providing on-the-scene care in the event of an epidemic or teaching preventative measures that stem the outbreak of illness in the first place.

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

In South Dakota, public health nurses are not eligible for employment until they have held certification as registered nurses (RN). This certification is achieved while attending an accredited four-year institution, although certain community colleges also have programs leading to licensure as an RN.

Those interested in working in public health, but unable to complete a four-year degree, may be able to obtain lower certification and work as public nurse assistants or aids. Advancement may be possible for public health nurses able to obtain higher degrees or forms of certification.

South Dakota: Challenges a Public Nurse May Face

Challenges for the average South Dakota public health nurse are, unfortunately, on the rise, as cuts in health care budgets have coincided directly with a lowered health ranking as compared to other states. Public health nurses are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a high standard of care in the midst of major layoffs and decreased resources.

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

South Dakota: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 45
Total Patients 61,049
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 193
Homeless Patients 1,943

South Dakota: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 54% 17% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 82% 37% 40%
Percent Uninsured 39% 13% 16%

South Dakota: Health Challenges

As mentioned above, funding cuts in South Dakota’s health and human services departments have coincided directly with greater health problems seen in the state’s community health clinics. In a United Health Foundation study, the state’s ranking dropped from 19th in 2011 to 27th in 2012.

Major concerns cited were high rates of binge drinking, low rates of childhood immunization and a significant increase in the number of children living in poverty. The state does have a few things going in its favor, including a decrease in work-related fatalities, low incidence of infectious disease and relatively low levels of air pollution.

However, in order for South Dakota to see an improvement in its health status, the state will need to allocate more money to preventing chronic issues such as binge drinking and obesity.

Diabetes Control Timely Prenatal Care Hypertension Control Low Birth Weight Childhood Immunization Cervical Cancer Screening Asthma Therapy
South Dakota 68.06% 48.90% 62.01% 6.1% 49.42% 49.13% 76.03%
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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