If you’re thinking of becoming a public health nurse, it’s normal to wonder about the job outlook. After all, the academic requirement of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will involve investing a decent amount of time, money and effort. Fortunately, this position has a great outlook for the future.
Public health nursing is a subdivision of registered nursing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in the wider field is above average, so there should be plenty of openings. Salaries for public health nurses are around $53,000 annually.
What Level of Education and Licensing is required to become a Public Health Nurse?
Qualification as a registered nurse is generally a basic for entry into the field of public health nursing. A bachelor’s degree is required by most communities, but some will accept an associate’s credential. A national licensing exam must also be passed before you can start practicing.
For supervisory or managerial positions, the requirements are a bit stiffer. A graduate degree is generally required. Prior experience in the field may be required as well.
“Soft” requirements are those that are not normally considered part of a school curriculum, but are required to properly perform a job. In this area, public health nurses need good listening skills, be able to work with large groups, and accommodate differing cultural needs. Nurses should also have a genuine desire to help the communities in which they practice.
Public health nurses who are at the management level will have to decide how to allocate resources that are sometimes scarce. This includes labor, which must always be directed, so it does the most good. Despite this, nurses must also know their own limits, so they don’t overextend themselves and burn out.
What Duties are performed by Public Health Nurses?
Unlike most nursing, the public health nurse deals with the health of communities as a whole. Therefore, the focus usually is not on individual patients. Instead, these nurses will provide community education, monitor threats to a specific community’s health, advocate the needs of a community to the relevant authorities, help deliver health care to underserved areas and provide other related services.
Qualified public health nurses don’t just tell others about the problems faced by a community. According to Explore Health Careers, top ranking professionals also design the programs meant to address these issues. They consider community factors like lifestyle, genetics and economic status to devise suitable services. These services include nutritional education, sanitation education and assistance, immunizations and more. Each community’s needs vary, so the nurse will need to be able to tailor responses to match.
In some cases, public health nursing will move far beyond administrative work. They can find themselves taking care of patients in crisis, providing care for infants or pregnant women, and helping with other such scenarios.
If public health nursing looks like a career you’re interested in, you have a great chance of being able to find a position once you acquire the necessary education. While you’re still pursuing your degree, consider taking an assistant position at a local clinic. That way, you’ll get some hands-on experience and be able to start helping people even before you’re a full-fledged nurse.