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It's public health or nothing?

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by SingTheBodyElectric SingTheBodyElectric (New Member) New Member

675 Visitors; 2 Posts

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So after doing quite a bit of research, I've determined that if I'm going to become a nurse and have any kind of job satisfaction, I'd better be a public health nurse. I think it's the combination of regular hours, variety of duties, emphasis on preventative health and patient teaching, and relative autonomy that appeals to me. I also dread the thought of being stuck under florescent lights, barked at by docs and patients in some hospital dungeon for the rest of my working life. I'm definitely an out and about kinda guy.

Yep, I said guy. Which brings me to my first question: According to reports I've read, men are very rare in public health. Why is this? The reports don't offer explanations. Is it something men just don't apply for, or is there a bias in hiring? Do men just not fit in?

Second question: How hard is it for a newbie nurse to break into public health? Since I'm so sure that public health is about the only kind of nursing I'd enjoy doing, I'd like to know if I could get into it without first working in the hospital trenches for years.

Third question: The reports I've read state that public health nurses report much higher job-satisfaction on average than hospital nurses, with far fewer stress-related health issues. Do you find this to be true? This is huge for me. I've worked as direct care staff in a facility for delinquent boys, and I quit after 4 months because I couldn't deal with the stress of 12-hour shifts, frequent single-staffing, and constant vigilance required to do that job. My quality of life, sleep, appetite, etc were all messed up. I'm afraid that traditional, hospital nursing would be just a higher-paid version of that same environment. Is public health nursing really that much different?

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6,064 Visitors; 541 Posts

I don't think that there is a bias in hiring men for public health positions. I think that fewer men choose majors related to public health or that lead to careers in public health. I don't have any statistics or hard facts, but I would suspect that this is because public health positions typically pay less and have less status than many other career paths traditionally held by men. I would not let this hold you back!

I would say that is it very difficult for a new grad to get a public health nursing job right out of school. Nearly all jobs outside of the hospital require at least a year of acute care experience (and sometimes several years depending on the area that you live and how competetive the job market is). In my part of the country, public health jobs tend to be filled quickly because there is an abudance of nurses who want to leave the bedside and public health jobs do hold a certain appeal due to the type of work and benefits.

I don't have a true "public health" nursing job; I would consider it to be more "community health". However, my job satisfaction is 10X greater than working in the hospital for the same reasons that you mentioned.

Have you researched other careers in public health? It sounds to me that you may not be as much interested in public health nursing as you are in public health in general. There are lots of other options that may allow you to go directly into public health without enduring years at the bedside. I don't want to discourage you from nursing if that is truly what you want to do, but I wouldn't choose a career based on the fact that you may enjoy just one speciality. What if you can't find a job in public health right out of school? Would you mind waiting a few years to get the required experience? Is there any other area of nursing that you think you may enjoy? There are other options outside of the hospital that may be open to new grads: office nursing, home health, etc. It is just a bit harder to find these jobs.

My advice is to find a few nurses to job shadow. Shadow a few nurses on different types of units for full 12-hour shifts in the hospital and also shadow a public health nurse. The jobs may turn out to be quite different from what you are expecting. I agree that work environments are very important and I wish that I would have done more research before pursuing nursing. Good luck in your decision.

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13,279 Visitors; 2,801 Posts

Have you researched other careers in public health? It sounds to me that you may not be as much interested in public health nursing as you are in public health in general. There are lots of other options that may allow you to go directly into public health without enduring years at the bedside.

I enjoyed my public health rotation best in nursing school but so far haven't wanted it badly enough to move somewhere with higher demand (eg rural areas in my state) or to consistently and persistantly pursue a local PHN job hoping to be in the right place and the right time when one comes available.

I find health education very interesting but low paid and tends to be mixed in with community organizing and advocacy - which I admire but is not my forte. Research is very interesting as well but I'm not sure, again, if I'm motivated enough to make a career of it (pursuing grants, etc). I've been getting more info on research assistant jobs and that doesn't look too overwhelming to aim for while still being stimulating and getting useful, transferable experience.

Anyway, so if you've got more info on public health related work, I'd be interested to hear.

And SingTheBodyElectric - I think it's great that you know yourself well enough and have researched acute care nursing enough to ask such questions.

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areeve01 has 10 years experience and specializes in HHC, QI, CM/UM, ICU, Consulting.

747 Visitors; 10 Posts

I have found it very difficult for newbie nurses to get into a public health nursing position. This is because you have to rely on an array of nursing background, that could include OB, Peds, MedSurg, Endocrine, Neuro, Psych, etc. But I personally would be willing to talk to a nurse who has had 6mth-1yr of Acute experience and pre-cept them in our organization. We are only venturing out into about 4 states though. If I felt that a newer nurse had the drive, ambition and was truly dedicated to learning this field, it would involve a longer training period than seasoned nurses but it is definately an option. I've worked with alot of male nurses in this field. This area of work beats out hospital nursing any day!

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1,643 Visitors; 21 Posts

Hey BodyElectric, I work as a PHN (many years) in No. Calif. And there are many reasons why I have stayed--some listed by your post. Our county is male friendly and have had several male PHNs over the years. Some of the males promote out of field into management positions, some have left for advanced degrees/positions in non-acute nursing jobs, and one that I can recall, left relunctantly b/c of personal reasons.

My advise is to follow your passion. If the area that you reside in doesn't have a male track record--then be a trail blazer and show the nay-sayers that men belong in every aspect of nursing--even maternal/child programs if that is your leaning. Remember, the women's movement of the 70's was not exclusive to females but to also males in female dominated fields such as nursing, flight attendant and primary education to name a few.

A side benefit to males in a predominate female role (in my opinion) is that males tend to raise the pay bar at the bargaining table during wage negotiations. So, I for one, welcome your XY gene pool into our overly estrogenized PHN field.

PS I've been told by other county PHNs (from other counties in No. Cal) that acute care experience is no longer a requirement--only a recommendation.

Best to you in your nursing endeavors.

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2,754 Visitors; 43 Posts

Hey BodyElectric, I work as a PHN (many years) in No. Calif. And there are many reasons why I have stayed--some listed by your post. Our county is male friendly and have had several male PHNs over the years. Some of the males promote out of field into management positions, some have left for advanced degrees/positions in non-acute nursing jobs, and one that I can recall, left relunctantly b/c of personal reasons.

My advise is to follow your passion. If the area that you reside in doesn't have a male track record--then be a trail blazer and show the nay-sayers that men belong in every aspect of nursing--even maternal/child programs if that is your leaning. Remember, the women's movement of the 70's was not exclusive to females but to also males in female dominated fields such as nursing, flight attendant and primary education to name a few.

A side benefit to males in a predominate female role (in my opinion) is that males tend to raise the pay bar at the bargaining table during wage negotiations. So, I for one, welcome your XY gene pool into our overly estrogenized PHN field.

PS I've been told by other county PHNs (from other counties in No. Cal) that acute care experience is no longer a requirement--only a recommendation.

Best to you in your nursing endeavors.

Northern California? Where abouts? I'm in Sonoma County!

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1,761 Visitors; 13 Posts

I'm also from No. CA, Solano County in fact. I'm looking into public health nursing as well.

Any info about Solano county and ph nursing in this area is appreciated.

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1,643 Visitors; 21 Posts

The last two posts indicate one nurse is residing in Sonoma County (I know this lovely county well) and the other from Solano County.

My remark was actually a compulation of info garnered from either direct conversation with existing PHNs from No. Cal or by recent job listings citing PHN openings.

The counties include: Marin (very recent listing in the paper) County; Yolo County--in fact a friend of mine recently went on a job interview and they are interested in hiring her. Sacramento County--frequent openings in several programs--I've even seen listings in Nurseweek (it's been awhile though), Placer County--I've met PHNs at conferences over the last few years and they have indicated recent hirings.

My advise to you is to call the various programs (not Human Resources--too bureaucratic) and ask the Nurse of the Day if they can give the name and number of a nurse supervisor that can actually give you real info such as 1) are there openings, 2) what programs does the county offer, 3) other than a PHN cert, are there other requirements?

Let me know if I can be of further assistance--PHN work is great. I'm not sure why more BSN prepared nurses don't make more of an effort to try this type of nursing--the personal rewards are quite satisfying.

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6,167 Visitors; 470 Posts

Another Northern Californian wanting to be a PHN.

I am in Santa Clara County. I am crossing my fingers and toes that I get an interview. It will mean a paycut from the hospital but I would deal with it. Being a PHN is something I have wanted since I did my community health practicum in school.

I know acute care is not a requirement but I hope my measly 5 months at the bedside dont look too bad. Wish me luck

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1,130 Visitors; 7 Posts

I worked in peds in the hospital and did travel nursing, and then after 3 years went into public health. I definitely love it- it really is the only area in nursing that's perfect for me- I couldn't go back to the hospital-it is totally different. I would say that working in the hospital was beneficial, just for the knowledge base I developed.... I don't know many that just started with public health, but that definitely doesn't mean it's not possible. But I would say 1 year would be sufficient.

As far as the man thing goes, the only thing I could think of is the comfort level of a female client having a man in the home. That's honestly the only potential issue I could see. Otherwise, I don't see a problem. It might be worth shadowing some PHN's in your community-

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1,678 Visitors; 16 Posts

Hi all,

I am very interested in PHN I did apply with the state I doubt they have received the app yet though had to send it via snail mail. But anyway does anyone out there know is this the only way to obtain a position? I wasn't sure if the state was my only resource and I know here in Pa state jobs can be hard to come by. Any thoughts??

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