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Tennessee: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 6, 2013

What Does A Public Health Nurse Do?

While most nurses care for patients individually, Public Health Nurses have a far broader reach. The role of a Tennessee Public Health Nurse is to identify health trends, which affect the community, then go out into those communities with relevant education, health and safety resources necessary to improve overall health care in that community.

These community servants work as health care advocates; their goal is to provide a wide range of health-related services for the greater good of that population.

What Education, Professional Experience do you need to become a Public Health Nurse?

Individuals desiring to become a Tennessee Public Health Nurse must complete the necessary coursework to become a Registered Nurse (RN). In most instances, this will require a four-year college degree along with passing a standardized examination called the NCLEX-RN. In addition to these educational preparations, those interested in this field would also do well by getting additional training in areas like public health or public policy.

To further enhance their preparedness, one should also consider participating in volunteer work such as home care service providers, health advocacy groups, hospice centers or community health clinics. Nurses fluent in both English and Spanish are in demand, in this field.

Tennessee: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

The United States has about 1200 community health centers mainly serving low-income individuals and families as well as individuals with little to no access to health insurance. Recently, the Federal Government began making its assessment of these community health centers to determine the overall quality of care available to the individuals served within these facilities. Following is the most recent data regarding community health clinics in the state of Tennessee.

Tennessee: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers: 23
Total Patients: 375,694
Seasonal Farm worker Patients: 5,341
Homeless Patients: 13,386

Tennessee: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Health Center – Percent at or Below 100% of Poverty: 80%
Health Center – Percent at or Below 200% of Poverty: 96%
Health Center – Percent Uninsured: 41%
Tennessee – Percent at or Below 100% of Poverty: 22%
Tennessee – Percent at or Below 200% of Poverty: 45%
Tennessee – Percent Uninsured: 15%
US – Percent at or Below 100% of Poverty: 21%
US – Percent at or Below 200% of Poverty: 40%
US – Percent Uninsured: 16%

Health Challenges

In Tennessee, the number of patients maintaining control of diabetes and for routine asthma therapy exceeds the national rate. Patients at Tennessee community health care centers receiving timely childhood immunizations and cervical cancer screenings is also exceeding the national average.

Although Tennessee is outperforming the national averages for all the criteria studied, there is some room for improvement in the areas of timely prenatal care and control of hypertension.

Tennessee: What Public Health Nurses can expect at Community Health Centers

Diabetes Control: (TN) – 72.89%, (US) 70.9%
Timely Prenatal Care: (TN) – 58.98%, (US) 70.0%%
Hypertension Control: (TN) – 58.50%, (US) 63.3%
Low Birth Weight: (TN) – 7.15%, (US) 7.4%
Childhood Immunization: – (TN) – 46.15%, (US) 43.8%
Cervical Cancer Screening: – (TN) – 58.69%, (US) 57.8%
Asthma Therapy: – (TN) – 70.46%, (US) 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

With more than 2 million individuals working as Registered Nurses, this career field is strong and growing stronger. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an expected growth in this field of about 26 percent by the year 2020 (which translates to more than 700,000 jobs). Median income for a Tennessee Public Health Nurse is about $51,000 per year (varying, of course, by employer).

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