Public Health Nursing

  1. 2

    Public health nursing is rather unique in its focus compared to other nursing specialties. Here nurses concentrate on the health of entire population/communities. With the increase in chronic illnesses that are a strain on the health care system, it is even more crucial to have competent public health nurses to work on these problems within the community.

    Public health nurses are licensed Registered Nurses. Most have a bachelor's degree in nursing. Some may continue with graduate studies focusing on a masters of public health or other relevant graduate degrees. Education in public policy, epidemiology and health administration can be helpful if the nurse wishes to continue their education.

    Work Environment

    Public health nurses primarily work for government health departments and community health centers. Nonprofit organizations can also employ public health nurses. An office environment is primarily where these nurses will work. Many times they will also go out into the community. They may work alone or with other public health nurses or on a multidisciplinary teams/committees.

    Skills / Qualities

    Public health nurses must be knowledgeable of population health and diseases. They must be comfortable speaking to small and large groups since many times they hold educational seminars in communities. They must be culturally sensitive if they live in areas of diversity; Bilingual is a plus in these areas as well. Extensive travel is possible in certain positions. Good communication skills imperative since these nurse collaborate with other disciplines and public health nurses. Knowledge of pediatric health including immunizations and specific local health concerns are important as well. Another important area is knowledge of public policy and the local political arena.

    Duties / Responsibilities

    Public health nurses focus on population health. They will be involved in reviewing data on areas such as the incidence of infectious diseases, chronic health conditions, mental health, smoking and drug use rates, and general community health trends. From that data, they can develop plans to improve public health. Many public health nurses need to become involved in the political arena in order to push for laws for community health. They occasionally may need to assist in monitoring environmental issues such as local landfills that may become a threat.

    Other duties of public health nurses include:
    • Access to care. Coordinating care with low income individuals and families and the uninsured.
    • Responsible for education of other public health personnel.
    • Training of new public health nurses
    • The development of community education programs in order to improve population health.
    • Assist with child health clinics including vaccinations
    • Domestic violence services
    • Preventative health campaigns that focus on community trends
    • Working with local schools to improve pediatric health
    • Case finding and monitoring persons with communicable diseases

    Public health nurses can also work for global health. Global health focuses on the health of the worldwide population. Nurses in this area may travel to foreign countries in order to hold health clinics or meet with others to develop plans to improve health. Advocacy plays a big part in global health.

    Job Outlook

    Demand varies per region. There is a demand for this specialty particularly in low income and/or undeserved communities. Some areas may not have shortages in this field of nursing.


    According to the Robert Wood Johnson Enumeration and Characterization of the Public Health Nursing Workforce survey conducted in 2012, Public Health/Community Health Nurse salary ranged from $45,089 to $73,852.


    American Public Health Association

    Association of Public Health Nursing

    Explore Health Careers/Public Health Nursing

    Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Public Health Nursing

    2013: Enumeration and Characterization of the Public Health Nursing Workforce Project

    So, What do you do in Public Health?

    Global Health
    Last edit by Joe V on Dec 2, '13
    Do you like this Article? Click Like?

  2. Visit DidiRN profile page

    About DidiRN

    Joined: Apr '03; Posts: 8,347; Likes: 1,196
    NP; from US
    Specialty: 25 plus year(s) of experience in ICU, step down, dialysis

    Read My Articles


  3. by   joanna73
    Thanks for posting this. I have always had an interest in public health myself, since I'm most interested in prevention of chronic illness and health promotion.

    I am researching graduate programs in public health and considering heading overseas for a year or two to teach English and explore. Given the current state of nursing, I won't be missing out on anything.
  4. by   iPink
    Thank you for the article. With the critical care experience I'm getting now and my renewed desire to move into working in women and babies health, the increased knowledge and skill will help me be much more effective in helping those communities where public health nurses are vital.
  5. by   K9005
    Thanks so much for all the information!