Public Health Nurse Pathway

  1. I'm currently entering my fourth year of my nursing degree and I have developed a strong interest for Public Health. However I haven't received much guidance from my professors on the area.

    What is the pathway to becoming a Public Health Nurse? I am aware that a Masters in Public Health is offered, however is that necessary for the specialization? Or is that only required if I would like to advance on the career ladder? Is it best to complete my masters after I complete my undergraduate? Or should I build some experience in the field first?

    My main question is, what is my pathway after graduation? Complete the NCLEX, find a job in public health, then receive my Masters?
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  2. 5 Comments

  3. by   Everline
    You do not need an MPH to work as a public health nurse. You do not need an MSN either. Yes, it's possible to be employed as a PHN after you graduate and then you can see what education would be best suited to move you toward your goals in this specialty. Some state health departments offer tuition assistance, too. So that might be a great way for you to continue your education.
  4. by   anitalaff
    Please do let me know! My passion is public health and after a year of applications to multiple agencies/areas, two clinical placements in public health, and a year of working as a community care nurse, I have yet to get so much as a call. Perhaps there is some terrible thing on my resume that I'm unaware of. I'm at a loss.
  5. by   SiwanRN
    Quote from jaimie_adams
    I'm currently entering my fourth year of my nursing degree and I have developed a strong interest for Public Health. However I haven't received much guidance from my professors on the area.
    That's a shame, there are plenty of interesting nursing jobs in public health.

    Quote from jaimie_adams

    What is the pathway to becoming a Public Health Nurse?
    For most nursing jobs in public health, a BSN is required for entry level positions. However, this may be different in rural areas. I have seen job listings in the more rural areas in my state that have ADN as an acceptable degree. Many public health agencies will also hire new graduate nurses for entry level jobs too. (Like me, when I was a new grad.)

    Quote from jaimie_adams
    I am aware that a Masters in Public Health is offered, however is that necessary for the specialization? Or is that only required if I would like to advance on the career ladder?

    No. I know nurses who have had their whole careers in public health who have a BSN. However, having an MPH will certainly open doors for you if you want to attain a higher level of employment like a program director or other supervisory role. It may also open doors to more interesting, though not necessarily supervisory, jobs like nurse epidemiologist or work in global health if that is an interest to you.

    Quote from jaimie_adams
    Is it best to complete my masters after I complete my undergraduate? Or should I build some experience in the field first?
    Unless your nursing degree is a second bachelor's degree, generally you have to complete an undergraduate program before you can do a master's degree. That said, if you are interested in graduate school for public health, I would encourage you to get your toes wet in the field first. Graduate school is expensive, and my advice would be to decide what sort of job you want and then select the educational pathway that will get you there.

    Quote from jaimie_adams
    My main question is, what is my pathway after graduation? Complete the NCLEX, find a job in public health, then receive my Masters?
    More or less, yes, except the master's degree is optional. If you are able to do your senior practicum/capstone/specialty/whatever your school calls it in a public health agency that will certainly help your chances of getting hired in public health as a new graduate. That's probably what did it for me. Since you are still in school though, you might also look into commissioning with the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Since you are still in school, you have the option of entering as a student. It's much more difficult to enter once you graduate. Have a read here:https://www.usphs.gov/apply/srcostep.aspx I wish I would have known about this as an option when I was still in nursing school.
  6. by   estoquodes
    The only other thing I would add is that my state (CA) requires a nurse to have a public health nursing certificate in order to be eligible for most, if not all jobs. I don't know if this is the case for all states, though.

    Since I knew I wanted to be a public health nurse, I submitted my application (online) as soon as my RN license number posted. There's no exam, it's just an application. Having said that, I did also have to take a Direct Child Abuse/Neglect Certification online class, as part of my application requirement. Some nursing programs offer this as part of their public health course - mine did not.

    I would check with your state's BON/BRN for logistical information such as eligibility, requirements, and application and processing times, when you get to that point. Or, ask your public health nursing instructor - they should be able to help out.

    Good luck!
  7. by   anitalaff
    I am considering an MPH so that I can continue to move forward. I'm the type of person who needs to be constantly learning, but I get that none of the PHN job postings require the MPH. I may just be better off going into a management or public relations type of stream to advance my career, but it doesn't speak to me.
    I missed a great chance to get a PHN job right out of my final practicum (consolidation) because a current PHN decided to take it (union matters). Now I'm out at sea. To top it off, my preceptors are not allowed to act as references for their nursing students, so I have two PH placements and no proof that I was any good there. Who is going to just take my word for it? It is a tough spot.
    In short, the MPH will keep my hand in learning about, and practicing what I love. I hope that this experience will bring me better connections in the PH world. I will be contacting the school this summer in order to talk about my career path.
    Some people do get hired right out of nursing school. In my area it is very competitive and union-sensitive.
    I don't know if this helps you, but I wanted to share my personal experience as a relatively new grad seeking PH opportunities. Best of luck!

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