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New Grad - OK to start with PH with no clinical experience?



I just graduated with a BSN and am in the process of looking for a job. My last rotation in school was with a public health department and I absolutely loved it. I think I might be headed in the PH route as a career and would love to gain experience and eventually work internationally as well.

My question is should I have clinical, med/surg experience before I work in PH? I feel like having hands-on experience will make me a better PH nurse in the end. Is this true? I would really appreciate any feedback! Thank you!

klone, MSN, RN

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 15 years experience.

I think having hands-on bedside experience will help ANY future nursing career, including public health. I work in a public health clinic (outpatient OB/gyn) - we recently hired an RN who had about 3 years of nursing experience, but it was exclusively in phone triage. Training her on some of the more "tasky" kind of things felt like working with a student - how to draw up meds for IM injections, how to find the landmarks to know how to place IM injections appropriately, how to take a manual blood pressure, even. So yes, I think that bedside nursing experience it quite important, regardless of where you see your future career goals.

Thanks for your advice. New grad jobs are hard to come by where I live so I am crossing my fingers. What are your thoughts on doing a year or two in PH (either here or abroad) and then going to bedside nursing?


Specializes in Public Health, Women's Health. Has 3 years experience.

Hello! I started as a public health nurse almost two years ago, my very first position. However, I volunteered a lot in the health care field and was a CNA at the age of 16 so I knew quite a lot already. I wouldn't change it, I know everyone says do the one year in med surg but I became a nurse because I always saw myself in a clinic environment. It's always about what your willing to put into it. Hope that helps!


Specializes in Public Health, Maternal Child Health.

A few people have asked this before so take a look at the other posts. My answer is, I've been working as a PHN for 7 months as a new grad and honestly could not be any happier. Dream job. I would say there is a 50% chance I might be happy never ever working in acute hospital care lol. It really made me realize my values, my passion, and my personal strengths as a nurse ( and as a human being). My particular passion lies in education, prevention, conversation, case management, mommies and babies, the poor, the under served, the uninsured or undocumented, low education, victims of abuse, and anything to do with promoting healthy families and raising happy healthy children. Of course the job has it's bad days and its stressors, but in the big picture, I've died and gone to nursing heaven! I feel like public health nursing lifts up my soul, ya know? I'm just saying med surg never gave me that feeling :/ but I would consider working in OB/NICU in the future. Hope that helps!

klone, MSN, RN

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 15 years experience.

I agree with Mia - public health nursing is not for everyone. I find it completely fulfilling, and LOVE working with low-income, underserved and uninsured populations. There is SO much patient education involved in any PHN role, and I love teaching, so it's a great fit for me.


Specializes in None yet.

I love public health and public health loves me. The PH arena is a great place for you to learn. I'm still a pretty green nurse, but I do not regret avoiding the hospital arena. Would I ever work in a hospital? Maybe. ED sounds rad, but I'm not hot to change my gig any time soon. I love having weekends/holidays off and not working nights. I make ok money, but I didn't become a nurse to make mad cash. I have patients of all types with all types of conditions. Public health work can be hard work, but man is it rewarding.


Specializes in Ortho/Uro/Peds/Research/PH/Insur/Travel. Has 6 years experience.

I completed my graduate school - MPH - practicum as a public health nurse in a STI/HIV clinic and I am currently volunteering as a RN in a similar clinic. I have been a RN for nearly 8 years and I have spent 6 of those in the hospital, including my first 3 years. As long as you're committed to a career in public health, you'll be fine. If you decide to pursue a bedside position in a year or two, you may have difficulty breaking in (especially in a larger market). You have to remember that you are gaining a unique skill set working in public health too (just as you would working in the hospital. Congrats on your decision and good luck!

Anoetos, BSN, RN

Specializes in Emergency Nursing. Has 2 years experience.

If public health nursing involves teaching, I am very excited to be starting it. I have always loved helping people navigate healthcare and understand things.

I've been a nurse for two years. I got a strong bedside foundation by working in critical and emergency care. It would be nice to help people with prevention and education BEFORE they get to the ER.


Specializes in public health. Has 5 years experience.

I don't think it's absolutely necessary to have the 2 years med-surg experience that you are probably told to have. Public health is so different from the bedside nursing. It certainly wouldn't hurt to have some hospital experience but it's not a prerequisite. I had no hospital experience and did just fine in my local health department. Good luck!

Hello all! I am so glad I found this post. I too had the same experience of getting to my community health rotation in school and falling completely in love with it. I even did my clinical immersion in a community health clinic. That being said, I am curious where to start looking for a job since most of the clinics near me use mostly LVN's. It seems as though RN positions in community health clinics require at least 1-2 years of experience, which, being a new nurse, I don't have. I'm just wondering how to get my foot in the door. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.


Specializes in Public Health, Women's Health. Has 3 years experience.

It isn't easy to get into public health that's for sure. I got lucky because I was fine with moving wherever I had to. I actually moved 45 miles into a very rural county to get my foot in the door. Surprisingly that was a really good move because we do all sorts of different things whereas other health departments specialize their clinics so I've got experience in different things. A good interview and willingness to go where you have to is my advice :) Hope you get your foot in the door! I will agree with you that a lot of health departments do utilize LPN's or MA's but there are some opportunities for RN's with no experience, it will just take extra effort to get.