Public health vs community health nursing

  1. I'm a nursing student (this is my first sesmester) and I'm stumped! My book tells me that public health nursing and community nursing are interchangable; however, my professors tell us that they are two different areas of nursing! Can someone please help me understand what the relationship between the two are and what the differences are between public health nursing and community health nursing! I'm so confused!
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    Joined: Jun '08; Posts: 8; Likes: 1


  3. by   JaneyW
    I'll take a stab at it: public health nurses work for the government--usually county thought can be state or federal. Community nurses work in the community. This can be for a public entity such as a school district or just in a community clinic or that kind of thing.

    I work for a school district, so I am practicing as a community health nurse but I am not a public health nurse.
  4. by   smilin4ever
    So public health deals with low income or work in the clinical settings and community health nursing assists groups within a community? Am I right?
  5. by   ElvishDNP
    The definition is kind a fluid one. Ask a hundred different people and you'll probably get as many answers.

    In this area, public health nurses are the nurses that work at the county health department. They are certified in public health. They treat STDs, follow up on high lead levels, disease outbreaks, give vaccines, etc.

    I used to work in a community health center. We did primary care, much as a doctors' office would. We also did outreach into the community - in our case, our focus was on migrant farmworkers and we'd often go out to camps where they lived to do BP screenings, health/disease prevention education. We also on occasion went to flea markets, community festivals, etc. In our office, we had diabetes management classes.

    Much of what we did overlapped with what the public health nurses in our area. Clear as mud.
  6. by   CheesyPeach
    I am a public health nurse specialist in a rural county. It is true that we do
    many vaccines and PPDs along with screening and treating STDs. We also
    function as main caregivers in Women's health, performing physicals and pap smears. We issue birth control pills and give depo injections and even help facilitate IUD placement and tubal ligations. We do abnormal pap follow up to ensure that clients get the care the need by facilitating communication with physicians. We also screen and pay for mammograms for women over 40 who do not have insurance. We screen 6th grade girls for scoliosis. We have an adult health program that provides affordable bp meds and we draw labs, issue the meds and monitor general health under the direction of individual physicians. we do WIC and child health, are certified lactation consultants, and are responsible for monitoring all communicable diseases/outbreaks in our area. Any TB cases in the county are followed and treated through us -which includes contact investigations. We are certified car seat safety technicians. We do health fairs and talk to teen groups or anyone who requests on many different areas of health. We are also a first line of action in natural disasters or terrorist attacks. We open shelters for storm refugees, tornado victims, etc. In essence we are a mixture of primary care and community care. IT is quite a fulfulling job, even with the lower pay. Just my
  7. by   celle507
    In my opinion, a nurse can be both a public health and community health nurse...

    For me, a public health nurse is someone who looks at the health of communities. So, TB screenings, infectious disease investigations, mammograms, health education to schools, etc. to make sure that the community is healthy. In essence, the community is your client and you are trying to prevent illness.

    A community health nurse is a nurse who works out in the community (i.e. NOT an institution such as a hospital or nursing home). So, a home health nurse, a HIV case manager, a clinic nurse, etc. However, the person is still your client. So you are still doing direct care tasks such as vital signs, wound care, case management and more tasks that are helping people who are already sick.

    To me, that is the difference between public health nursing and community health nursing althogh the two very, very often overlap..

    I hope that helps!
  8. by   Inspired1920

    I happened to chcek this thread out. Even though this answer wasn't for me, it helped me so so so much. I'm in the process of trying to find out what kind of degrees I need to get to do the Public Health Nursing. What degrees did you get? Thanks!
  9. by   Aneroo
    A public health nurse is aways community health nurse, but a community health nurse is not always a public health nurse. LOL

    Ex- SOme school nurses are community health nurses- they work in the community and are employees of the school system. I am a school nurse, but work through public health. I am both community and public health nurse.

    As a PHN, the patient *IS* the community, not the individual.
  10. by   Jo Dirt
    I think focusing on things like this serves little purpose in furthering the nursing profession.

    I know you still have to do it, I did too. Public health nurses are employed by the government and serve to protect the general population, community health nurses go out in the community and see people on a more individual basis.
  11. by   Janey CNM
    Public health looks at everyone from all over. We are concerned with things that may be coming down the pike and hit all of us (like bird flu, etc.). Community health mostly involves nurses and other health care professionals that tailor interventions to a particular community's needs, and they generally don't plan out for "the bigger picture", although they do a heck a job in their locales, since they know it better.
    I have an MPH, which a very multi-disciplinary degree, and currently teach CH nursing.
  12. by   nurseprnRN
    every public health and school nursing job i know of requires a bs in nursing. extras like certification in public health, occupational health, oncology, or graduate degrees in public health or nursing or what have you are always helpful.