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Wyoming: Outlook and Challenges for Public Care Nurses

Higher Education Articles October 7, 2013

What are Public Health Nurses?

A Wyoming public health nurse is responsible for working, with communities, to provide the highest possible level of patient care. Their goal is to work for the overall health of Wyoming populations and communities as groups. Most public health nurses work in federally-funded community health clinics—facilities that provide care to low-income, high-risk segments of the population.

Some of the responsibilities of public health nurses include:

•Initiating and organizing campaigns to educate the community about available health services
•Tracking trends in contagious diseases and their occurrences within the community
•Educating the public about preventable health problems and conditions that members of a community face
•Working with federal and local governments to advocate for underserved groups of people to ensure they receive the best possible care

What education or professional experience do you need to become a public health nurse?

An RN license is the minimum requirement to become a public health nurse. RN’s have an associate’s degree in nursing, which incorporates classes in medicine and patient treatment and some supervised clinical work. However, for some, being a registered nurse isn’t enough. Depending on the position you are interested in, and the level you hope to advance in your career, a BSN (Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing) might be required.

A BSN is a four-year degree, but it is unlike other bachelor’s programs in that it incorporates both extensive class work in nursing and significant supervised clinical experience. It usually takes about 15-18 months of study beyond the RN license to earn a BSN.

With a BSN, nurses have more opportunities for advancement. BSN-certified nurses are able to serve in a variety of clinics and venues. With a BSN, nurses often also have the ability to interact with patience on a more in-depth basis. Upon graduation, nurses are required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in order to become certified at this level.

Wyoming: Challenges a Public Health Nurse Might Face

Public health nurses in Wyoming deal with significant challenges that often test their dedication and flexibility. Many public health nurses work in federally-funded public health clinics, which usually serve a comparatively young, low-income, mostly female segment of the population.

The following charts give an overview of public health centers in Wyoming and different features of the communities they serve. The first chart shows the amount of Wyoming’s population that uses federally-funded public health centers.

Wyoming: Community Health Center Basics

Number of federally-supported health centers 6
Total Patients 20,725
Seasonal Farm worker Patients 598
Homeless Patients 2,207

Wyoming: Community Health Center Clientele Data

Category Health Care Center Population State Population U.S. Population
Percent at or below 100% of Poverty 60% 14% 21%
Percent at or below 200% of Poverty 91% 33% 40%
Percent Uninsured 51% 16% 16%

Wyoming: Health Challenges

Based on a recent Kaiser Institute study summarizing common health preventative measures and problems, fewer Wyoming residents have their health issues under control than Americans in general. According to this study, only 50% of people diagnosed with diabetes had their blood sugar under control, and less than 20% of children had received recommended vaccinations by the time they were 2 years old.

On a positive note, though, significantly fewer newborns suffered from low birth weight at the time of the study—just 4%, compared with a national average of 7%.

Wyoming: 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
Wyoming 50.10% 66.54% 54.78% 4.52% 19.27% 51.35% 47.08%
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 Care Nurse

Public health nurses will continue to be in high demand for the foreseeable future. In 2010, the median salary for a public care nurse was $64,690—about $31/hour. Openings for public health nurses—and other registered nurses—are expected to grow 26% between 2010 and 2020, so nurses can look forward to even more job opportunities in the years to come.

Considering that nurses fill a gap that no other health professional can, they will remain an integral part of the health care system and the job market for years to come. By serving their communities, and working, with doctors and patients, to provide the best possible care, public health nurses can look forward to a promising future—making a difference in their communities and enjoying a stable career.

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