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Virginia: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 7, 2013

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

A public health nurse is a registered nurse who is dedicated to providing health care to entire populations. They work with preventive medicine, often providing care such immunizations and regular health screenings.

They also work with providing education about healthy living and how to prevent and watch for disease. They are very important for helping to bring health care to populations that lack regular access to health care professionals.

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

A registered nurse must receive a degree from an accredited program; either an associate’s program or bachelor’s degree program is accepted. They must also pass the NCLEX. Certain positions may also look for applicants who have completed graduate work in nursing.

While the nurses are studying, it is recommended that they pursue educational and working opportunities in public health and public policy to prepare them for the positions. It is also a good idea to cultivate personal traits such as cultural sensitivity, good listening skills, ability to work in groups, and creativity with using limited resources.

Virginia: Challenges a Public Health Nurse May face

A Virginia public health nurse may be employed in a federally funded community health clinic. These clinics are designed to provide health care to classified Medically Underserved Areas or Medically Underserved Populations. They must provide a sliding scale of fees depending on the income of the patient. They are frequently used by people who are younger, under the age of 65, female, and low income.

Here is some data in chart form to communicate the important information regarding these community health clinics.

Virginia: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally – supported health centers: 25 organizations with 147 delivery sites

Total Patients: 273,431

Seasonal Farm worker Patients: 3,869

Homeless Patients: 10,083

Virginia: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 60% 15% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 85% 31% 40%
Percent Uninsured 36% 13% 16%

Virginia: Health Challenges

Virginia has a few areas where they are doing much better than the national averages. They are doing well with helping the patients control their diabetes and hypertension. They are nearly 15% higher than the national average, with their rate of childhood immunizations. Unfortunately, there are also many areas that need improvement.

They are more than 20% lower than the national average, with having patients receive timely prenatal care. This may be a contributing factor to the over three percent higher rate of low birth weight babies. The state also lags behind the rest of the nation with cervical cancer screenings and asthma therapy.

Virginia: 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
Virginia 76.04% 49.17% 66.01% 10.81% 58.00% 51.73% 67.03%
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.

Job Outlook for a Public Health Nurse

The job outlook for those interested public health nursing is very strong. People and politicians realize the value of community health clinics because they help lower overall health costs. As more areas invest, in the clinics, to help improve the local overall health care, there will be a strong need for these nurses.

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