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Texas – Public Health Nursing Outlook

Higher Education Articles September 28, 2013

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

The role of a public health nurse in Texas, similar to other states, is far different from the traditional career of a standard nurse. Where the traditional nursing path involves caring for patients’ one-at-a-time, eventually migrating to the management of other nurses or hospital/clinic floors, the public health nurse often manages an entire network of community health clinics.

Many public health nurses serve in a government manager role or a government-funded center, providing and managing the delivery of health services to entire targeted communities. Often, such population groups are affected poverty or a lack of general access to medical and health resources.

As a result, the role of the public health nurse can often involve medical education of community members, preventative health training, tracking and research of health and risk trends in a population, seeking and advocating for increased service support, and managing clinics.

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

Like other states, a Texas public health nurse needs to have already been licensed as a registered nurse. To meet this requirement, Texas State requires prospective nurses to have performed a minimum college degree level of education, often at the associate or bachelor level.

Once practice and education requirements are met, the nurses can then seeking licensing with the respective Texas State medical nursing board. Additionally, public health nurses also need to have national licensing in place with the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Texas: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May Face

Although much of the funding that pays for underserved populations is delivered by the federal government, Texas public health nurses will frequently find themselves working with the identified Medically Underserved Population (MUP), delivering services through a community health center.

Often, the role of the nurse will be dual, spending varying time managing service delivery as well as advocating additional resource support to maintain or expand the given center’s services.

Texas: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers: 337

Total Patients: 948,685

Seasonal Farm worker Patients: 11,807

Homeless Patients: 48,964

Texas: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or Below 100% of Poverty 74% 25% 21%
Percent at or Below 200% of Poverty 93% 46% 40%
Percent Uninsured 54% 25% 16%

Texas: Health Challenges

Public health nurses, finding a position in a Texas community health center program, are going to find that the state is below the national average of health services. While Texas exceeds the nation in childhood immunization, cervical cancer screening, and asthma therapy, it is behind the curve in other major service needed areas.

Texas: 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
Texas 64.9% 64.7% 63.54% 6.98% 54.63% 58.55% 80.33%
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 in Texas

The national average pay for a public health nurse is approximately $51,000 annually. However, positions in Texas will be slightly lower as the state tends to lag other areas in terms of income pay as well as cost of living.

Those seeking a career in public health nursing in Texas can expect to see high demand both in urban and rural areas. Both zone types will have a high number of underserved populations needing and relying on government-funded health services, with no fallback in demand expected anytime soon. Especially, given the state’s reputation for being stringent on social services and minimum wage increases, free health care services are heavily relied on by low income communities across the state.

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