The Importance of Public Health Nursing

Public health nursing, also known as community health nursing, gives nurses the opportunity to combine two noble callings. The first, of course, is the caring aspect. The second, which places public health nurses into a distinct classification of healthcare professional, is the calling to serve the public.

Public health nursing is different from most nursing jobs in several key ways. Whereas a nurse in a hospital cares for patients who are acutely ill, in need of a medical or surgical procedure, or recovering from a procedure, a public health nurse is largely concerned with prevention measures.

Also, unlike many nurses who specialize in skills according to their unit (such as cardiac care, dialysis, or labor and delivery), public health nurses must deal with a wide range of potential health concerns. Though, of course, depending on the setting, a public health nurse could focus on prevention and management of specific diseases like AIDS or tuberculosis.

According to an article in Nurse Journal, the growth rate and salary projections are encouraging for nursing jobs across the board, driven by a multitude of factors.

Where Do Public Health Nurses Work and What Do They Do?

The article goes on to specifically identify some specific settings and roles for public health nurses, including the following:

  • In government agencies, including state departments of health, public health nurses may oversee immunization programs, initiatives to promote healthy behaviors (such as ones to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies), initiatives to educate people on taking preventive measures for a range of public health issues, and programs dealing with mental health.
  • When it comes to combating communicable diseases, the duties of a public health nurse can include promoting better health practices to prevent the spread of the disease, working with high-risk populations, and setting best practices for treating those with the disease.
  • School health focuses on children in school populations and can also intersect with Child Protective Services to care for at-risk children typically under that agency's discretion.
  • Refugee care includes caring for populations with diseases and conditions that might be unfamiliar to an American healthcare team.

Public Health Nursing and Education

Because so much of public health nursing focuses on education, a holistic look at health and the roles of individual team members, it's a role that requires RNs with a BSN degree. The curriculum in LSUA's RN to BSN program is tailor-made for public health nursing. The curriculum allows its students to:

  • Focus on quality care and case management of vulnerable populations in acute care.
  • Participate in evidence-based, quality improvement projects.
  • Gain valuable experience with practical, real-world group projects.

In fact, the program includes a class focused entirely on community health nursing, as well as a number of other classes giving nurses the skills and the perspectives to efficiently and effectively promote public health.

All of this prepares nurses for a public health nursing career that is both personally fulfilling and vital to reaching the ultimate goal of healthcare: to keep more people healthy for longer periods of time. As an article on public health nursing points out, "A public health nurse strives to promote prevention over treatment," thereby keeping the cost of healthcare under control, and keeping hospitals and other healthcare facilities from being overburdened.

Nursing opportunities will grow as the American population ages. Public health nursing will be vital to our ability to provide healthcare to all Americans -- and an RN to BSN program can prepare you for that important role.

Learn more about LSUA's online RN to BSN program.


Nurse Journal: Top 10 Community Health Nursing Careers

All Nursing Schools: About Community Health Nursing: Become a Public Health Nurse

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