What is a Public Health Nurse

What is a Public Health Nurse

Everything You Need to Know About Public Health Nurse 

Public health nurses have increasingly become popular, with the occupation comprising the largest professional segment in the public health sector. Public health professionals work tirelessly to ensure Americans eat foods with nutritional value, drink clean and safe water, breathe high-quality air, and access various care services that promote human health. Undoubtedly, public health focuses more on improving community health and emphasizing disease prevention among many individuals. One of the fastest-growing public health professions is the public health nurses.


Public health nurses are involved in the evaluation, prevention, advocacy, and education of and about public health. With this, public health nurses are at the forefront in the prevention of community diseases. They promote community health and ensure safety. Unlike most nurse practitioners and registered nurses who serve within a healthcare setting, public health nurses serve patients within their communities. Instead of waiting for patients to come to the hospital, the care nurses get involved in various health activities to improve their health outcomes. They work in collaboration with community health nurses to solve health issues within the community. 


Aspiring nurses wishing to start their nursing practice as public health nurses must meet specific educational requirements. The aspiring public health nurses must primarily pursue an ADN or BSN from an accredited institution before completing their NCLEX-RN exam. Are you considering pursuing a career in public health nursing and don’t know where to start? If so, this article is ideal for you. It covers the vital aspects of a public health nurse, including: 


  1. Responsibilities of a public health nurse 
  2. Becoming a public health nurse 
  3. Benefits of a career as a public health nurse 
  4. The average salary of public health nurses 

Responsibilities of A Public Health Nurse 

If you are looking for one of the best nursing careers, pursue a career in public health nursing. A public health nurse considers several factors when evaluating illnesses. Their primary focus is on patient education since they are better positioned to provide accurate information to the community regarding protecting their health. Public health nurses work with various organizations such as schools and community groups to educate people on important healthcare issues. They assess health trends to identify the risk factors that are likely to lead to communicable diseases within the community. They advocate for improved access to health services to vulnerable populations. Most importantly, they provide direct primary care services to at-risk communities. 

What Types of Patients Does a Public Health Nurse Work with? 

Public health nurses work less with individual patients and more with the entire population. Public health nurses’ role is to ensure the whole community’s overall health by developing and designing disease prevention measures. With this, they can work in different health settings. They work with a variety of patients both within the community and healthcare facilities. Some of the types of patients include: 


  • Pediatric 


Children are always at higher risk of contracting illnesses than adults. It is always vital for health professionals to reach the children as soon as possible. Public health nurses educate children and their parents on maintaining their health and preventing communicable diseases, such as ensuring personal hygiene and other health practices. Public health nurses work closely with community health nurses to develop effective immunization schedules. 


  • Adult Patients 


Adult patients are unlikely to access proper care services due to mobility issues and financial constraints. To help improve their access to healthcare services, public health nurses offer direct medical services to adult patients. As highly trained registered nurses, the public health nurses work closely to assess and monitor their health care issues. Public health nursing has helped improve the health outcomes of older adults. 


  • Outpatients 


Public health nurses work closely with nurse practitioners to offer health care services in outpatient centers. Outpatient centers are located within the community to enable people with various health issues. The public health nurses order medical tests, evaluate the patient’s condition, and develop treatment plans to treat the medical conditions. Additionally, the public health nursing professionals design various leaflets to help educate patients visiting the outpatient centers. 


  • Psychiatric Patients 


Currently, a substantial number of Americans are suffering from mental health disorders. These disorders could be life-threatening if not managed appropriately. Public health nurses work closely with psychiatric patients by providing vital information to help manage chronic disorders. The public health nurses also offer counseling services to the patients as a treatment option. 

What Is a Public Health Nurse? 

Public health nurses are health care professionals who work closely with the different health departments to prevent illness and improve community health and global health. They have vast knowledge on disease prevention, thus providing helpful information on how a population can protect their health and improve their well-being. They collaborate with several organizations to educate the masses on safety practices, living with people with disabilities, and taking terminally ill patients. They encourage the masses to get tested for various conditions. Public health nurses ensure different groups are vaccinated against diseases. Some of the typical responsibilities include: 


  • Monitoring health trends to identify health risk factors within a community 
  • Advocate for improved access to health care services, especially for underserved communities 
  • Develop and design education campaigns and immunization schedules 
  • Inform the public of the available services within the community health facilities 
  • Provide primary care to vulnerable populations 

Where Does a Public Health Nurse Work? 

Public health nursing involves working in a variety of health care settings. Let’s explore some of the places you might work in as a public health officer. 


  • Community Clinics: Community clinics ensure access to primary care. In the clinics, public health care nurses deal with various health concerns to improve community health outcomes. The PHNs develop an education program to inform the community on ways of improving their overall health. 
  • Government Organizations: Public health nurses take up leadership roles in government organization’s health departments. They are involved in policy development, developing strategies used to improve the overall health of communities. 
  • Schools: Public health nurses work with schools’ administration to educate students on safety practices. Students are taught disease prevention mechanisms such as the importance of maintaining personal hygiene. In some cases, public health nurses teach students about sexual health.

Becoming A Public Health Nurse 

Those intending to become public health nurses must first become registered nurses. The nursing education for registered nurses trains and prepares aspiring nurses on the fundamental aspects of nursing. To become a registered nurse, you must earn either an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited nursing institution. The degree programs prepare nursing students to undertake the NCLEX examination. The nursing students must pass the examination to obtain their practicing licensure. We will explore the route to becoming a public health nurse after gaining your nursing certification on this page. We will explore the educational requirements for public health nurses and registered nurses in detail, including the differences. 

How Can You Become a Nurse with A Degree in Public Health? 

Public health degrees have become quite common as nursing programs lead to multiple career options. Those pursuing public health degrees cover several areas, including epidemiology, infectious diseases, biostatistics, health education, community health, global health, among others. Graduates from public health schools can fill various positions with health care departments including educators, and leaders. They might also pursue multiple careers in nursing as nurses providing primary health care services.

Public health degrees provide students with a solid foundation of various medical issues, including disease prevention and health informatics. Public health degree graduates who consider becoming nurse practitioners must meet some educational requirements. Here is the typical route to becoming a nurse with a degree in public health: 



  • Obtain a Master of Science Degree in Nursing 


The primary requirement for admission in a master of science degree in nursing program is a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related field. Having completed your public health degree program, graduates can quickly pursue a master’s degree in nursing. The nursing program will help train and prepare aspiring nurses for different career options. The program will help prepare students to sit for NCLEX-RN examinations. Upon completing the master’s degree program, the graduate must complete a one-year supervised internship in a clinical setting. The internship programs provide the student with hands-on experience in the nursing profession. It also prepares students for the certification examination. 


  • Pass the NCLEX-RN 


Passing NCLEX exams enable aspiring nurses to become registered nurses. The examination tests students’ knowledge of the various nursing areas. Students are expected to score 75%, which will enable them to get certification to practice as registered nurses. 


  • Gain Experience 


After gaining a practicing license, the nurses are expected to achieve at least two-year nursing experience. Those aspiring to become public health nurses must obtain a job that specializes in public health nursing. 

What Can a Nurse Do with A Master’s Degree in Public Health? 

Those aspiring to work in the public health sector must consider earning a master’s degree in public health as the degree program unlocks several high-paying careers. The master’s degree in public health prepares students for leadership and managerial positions. They might get involved in patient advocacy, strengthening public health. Below is a list of some of the popular jobs you can pursue with an MPH degree: 

  • Health Informatics Specialist: Health informatics specialists analyze several healthcare data and apply the findings to medical research and public health. They also conduct experimental treatments for diseases to determine the trends and risk factors. They work in public health organizations, local governments, and food and drug administration clinics. 
  • Epidemiologist: Epidemiologists work closely with health care professionals to determine the cause of diseases and develop possible treatment options. They train policymakers on diseases and infections and evaluate government agencies. 
  • Healthcare Administrator: Healthcare administrators provide leadership expertise in healthcare organizations. They organize staff, delegate duties, and ensure the healthcare facility has all the resources it needs. Also, they coordinate all the services provided in the institution. Primarily, they work in clinics, hospitals, and wellness centers. 
  • Public Health Educator: Health education is a vital aspect of disease control and prevention. As a public health educator, you will inform the masses on health and safety practices. Moreover, you will teach people how to live and handle patients suffering from various ailments. Public health educators also encourage people to go for regular health check-ups. They also develop and organize health sensitization programs. 
  • Healthcare consultant: Healthcare consultants evaluate a healthcare facility’s activities to identify issues and ways of solving the problems. They advise the management on ways of improving efficiency. They are mainly employed by large healthcare organizations that handle several patients. 
  • Director of a Nursing School: Lead nursing school’s health services department. They ensure that students receive the right medical services. They provide health education services to students. 
  • Outpatient Clinic Manager: Manage the community clinics’ operations to ensure that the community members access high-quality care. 

How Are the Education Requirements for Becoming a Public Health Nurse and A Registered Nurse Different? 

The education requirements for becoming a public health nurse and registered nurse hold several similarities, just as MSN versus DNP. For instance, the aspiring nurses in either profession must first complete a degree program and earn certifications before beginning their practice. However, education requirements vary in various aspects. The two nursing professions’ education requirements differ in terms of the nursing certification needed to start practice. Whereas registered nurses need an NCLEX-RN accreditation, public health nurses need accreditation in public health. Public health nurses can practice with the NCLEX-RN license since they are registered nurses.

Benefits of A Career as A Public Health Nurse 

All nursing professions require intelligent, dedicated, and caring individuals. There are several nursing careers that you can pursue with a nursing degree. However, there is one field that is often overlooked, and that is public health. Unlike most registered nurses who work closely with individual patients, public health nursing professionals work with a group of people, making public health nurses a community-based profession.

Pursuing a profession in public health nursing has several benefits. For instance, public health nurses provide health care services where they are needed most, especially in underserved areas. The career allows you to participate in progressive research, improving different communities’ health outcomes. Public health nursing careers help address various health concerns such as unplanned pregnancy, drug addiction, and mental health issues. The nurses also collaborate with other nursing professionals such as nurse practitioners to provide direct care to people. 

What Is the Career Outlook for A Public Health Nurse? 

Job demand for public health nurses is significantly going up fast, especially in low-income and underserved areas. Therefore, those intending to enter the nursing profession should consider concentrating in public health nursing. Currently, there is a high prevalence of chronic conditions in different areas. Public health nurses have the expertise and knowledge needed to determine the health risk factors specific to a community. The nurses are at the forefront of determining the prevention measures for the diseases. With this, BSL projects the demand for public health nurses will grow even further in the coming years. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for all registered nurses is $75,330 per year, translating to $36.22 per hour. The job profession will grow by 7% in the next decade since the need for public health nurses is projected to grow. Most government agencies have begun embracing public health nurses’ services, particularly in disease prevention and health education. Health education provided by public health nurses has equally helped manage existing medical conditions, as patients and families are taught on safety practices. 


Those seeking to advance their public health nursing career must advance their nursing education to higher levels. For instance, nurses with associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees should consider pursuing a master’s degree. The master’s degree program allows the nursing student to specialize in different areas leading to increased career prospects. Also, higher education levels lead to higher positions, including leadership and managerial positions with higher salaries. The program ensures you remain competitive in the nursing field. 

What Do Public Health Nurses Typically Enjoy About Their Jobs? 

If you are looking for a satisfying career, consider a nursing career, public health nurse to be specific. Public health nursing involves working with different people and organizations to help improve community health. The health professional’s responsibilities are more aligned to communities other than individuals, which is the primary reason why public health nurses enjoy their profession. Below is a detailed analysis of some of the reasons why public health nurses enjoy their job: 


  • Improving Health Outcomes of Underserved Communities: Vulnerable populations have reduced access to medical services, despite the increased demand for care services in the areas. Public health nurses provide care to these communities within their localities. Nothing puts a smile on a nurse’s face than delivering care where it is most needed. 
  • Creating Relationships with Local Communities: Public health nurses help address various health concerns within the community. They create awareness and ensure health departments provide resources needed to address health concerns. This helps create an unbreakable bond between the locals and the health professionals. 
  • Providing Health Education: Public health nurses have a solid knowledge of diseases, including the causes and prevention strategies. Public health nurses develop and organize campaigns to educate the masses on disease prevention and safety practices. 

How Can You Help Your Community as A Public Health Nurse? 

One way of helping my community during my nursing practice is educating the community on various health issues and how to prevent diseases. This will ensure my community is free from health risk factors. Secondly, I will play an advocacy role to ensure my community can access high-quality and affordable care. 

Average Salary of Public Health Nurses 

Public health nurses are among the most paid health care professionals. The public health nurse profession has a promising job outlook, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics expecting the demand to grow by 7% in the coming years. If you are looking for a nursing profession with job security and higher perks, consider a career in public health nursing. To start nursing practice as a public health nurse, you must first become a registered nurse by earning a BSN degree. The average salary for a public health nurse is $63,568, according to the latest labor reports. However, the pay varies depending on the state, size of the health care organization, and level of experience and education. 

What Factors Affect the Salary of a Public Health Nurse? 

Health care is among the fastest-growing industries in the economy. In the job market, the health care sector continues to rise in employment rates due to the high demand for healthcare services. The increased demand has led to increased salaries paid to health professionals, especially public health nurses. The level of wages earned by public health nurses depends on the specialty of the registered nurse. For instance, a home health nurse earns a relatively lower salary than a nurse anesthetist. There are several other contributing factors such as: 



  • Job Location 


The average wage for public health nurses varies based on the location of employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, states such as California, Washington, New York, and Massachusetts pay employees in public health nursing higher salaries than those in other states. Public health nurses are likely to land jobs more quickly within the listed states due to the high demand for their services. 


  • Size of the Organization 


The organization’s size has always been a contributing factor to employee salaries in almost all professional fields. Large health care facilities tend to pay public health nurses higher wages than the relatively smaller facilities. This is because larger hospitals receive a higher number of patients daily, leading to higher incomes. 


  • Work Experience 


The work experience in your nursing practice affects your salary as a public health nurse practitioner. Nursing professionals with over ten years of experience tend to take home higher salaries and benefits than those in the entry levels. Therefore, the more a public health nurse gains knowledge, the more the remuneration packages. 


  • Level of Education 


Believe it or not, your education level is likely to affect your salary as a public health nurse. Public health nurses with master’s degrees and above earn higher wages. That is why nurse practitioners such as nurse anesthetics enjoy higher packages than registered nurses.

How Can You Increase Your Salary as A Public Health Nurse? 

Public health nursing isn’t about making money; it’s about providing health care services and saving lives. Nevertheless, we need money to live. On this page, we explore some of the ways you can increase your salary as a public health nurse. 

  • Advance Your Education: We all know that our salaries depend on our education level. If you are a public health nurse with an associate degree, consider enrolling for a BSN program and beyond. The advanced nursing program will advance your skills and knowledge, positioning you for new careers. This will help grow your salary and earnings. 
  • Obtain Additional Certification: Obtaining additional certification in different nursing specialties increases your salary potential. The additional certification will unlock several career opportunities, bolstering your career. 
  • Work in Underserved Areas: Underserved areas have a high demand for public health services. Agreeing to work in rural areas is likely to increase your salaries, as most public health nurses avoid working in those areas. 
  • Move into Leadership Position: One effective way of increasing your salary is by applying for management or leadership positions. The positions come with more prominent roles and higher earnings. 

Why Does the Salary of a Public Health Nurse Vary from City to City? 

The salaries of public health nurses vary from city to city due to various reasons. For instance, the demand for public health jobs varies from state to state. Hence, states with higher demand for public health nursing services are likely to pay health care professionals higher salaries than those with low demand. The compensation varies due to the cost of living. Cities with a higher cost of living are likely to pay public health nurses higher remuneration to improve their living standards. States also have different salary policies. Most states require health organizations to pay their employees based on a specific salary scale. 

Final Thoughts 

Public health helps protect and improve peoples’ health and that of the community. The health field promotes healthy lifestyles which are geared towards preventing infectious diseases. Public health professionals work tirelessly to detect diseases and develop treatment plans for the illnesses. Public health nurses comprise the largest public health segment as they are directly involved in the prevention, evaluation, and advocacy of public health. 


Public health nursing offers several career opportunities in the field of public health. Unlike other nursing professionals that work with individual patients, the public health nurses work with an entire population, with the primary focus is educating the community on various health concerns. They assess the health trend to determine the risk factors and develop mitigation plans. Additionally, they develop education campaigns for disease prevention while providing direct care services to vulnerable populations. 


To become a public health nurse, you must obtain either an AND or BSN degree from a nursing school. You must also obtain registered nurse licensure by passing the NCLEX-RN examination, which allows you to complete public health certifications. Some of the common employers of public health nurses include hospitals, government agencies, schools, outpatient centers, and community clinics. The job outlook for the profession is promising, with a growth rate of 7%. Therefore, if you intend to begin nursing practice, why not pursue a career as a public health nurse?

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