The Public health nurse delivers on-the-go nursing care to schools, the community as well as individuals within their home. Learn what advantages community health/public nursing has to offer you.

How to Become a Community or Public Health Nurse Guide
How to Become a Community or Public Health Nurse Guide

Table of Contents

Quick Summary

The public health nurse/community health nurse utilizes their nursing skills to assist in keeping the public safeguarded and healthy. Many have excellent communication and assessment skills. They are interested in the overall health and well-being of a community, not just one individual.

A public health nurse also termed as a community health nurse provides interventions, examinations, treatment, and response strategies that are directed towards helping a particular patient population to promote health and wellness.

Degree needed to practice: Bachelor of Science (BSN)

Required License: Current registered nurse’s license (RN)

Certification: Most states offer The Public Health Nurse (PHN) certification. This certification may be acquired through your State Board of Nursing.

Median Annual Salary: $66,640*


What does Community Health Nurse do?

The strategies that a public health nurse will use can affect a community, group, family, or individual. Public health nurses will work for health divisions, neighborhood schools, jails and prisons, occupational, physical health centers, state departments, families, and groups.

Community and public health nurses use critical thinking skills to try to locate what is causing the problems within the community. Some problems that have an impact on a community could be child abuse, social issues, or underage pregnancies.

Public health nurse holds the responsibility to find ways to address issues within a community that leads to better patient health outcomes.

They can additionally help families locate resources to food programs to promote better eating habits that in return can contribute to reducing obesity issues within a community.

Public health nurses may work within a community to plan and implement health services to prevent community illness of populations that are identified as at-risk or vulnerable.

Some examples of people that considered at risk:

  • Economically disadvantaged populations with little to no resources.
  • Language and literacy limitations
  • Individuals that may have medical health issues or disabilities with no healthcare insurance.
  • Individuals who may live in rural geographic areas.
  • Specific patient age groups. Their age could put them at risks such as infants, children, teenagers, or even the elderly.

The ultimate goal of the public health nurse is to improve community population health. They will use interventions that could be focused on the whole population within a community, the health systems that influence this population, or the individuals and families within the population that have been identified at risk.

Newly released findings published by the Institute of Medicine notes reduced U.S health status is costly and reflects a failure of the nation’s health care system as a whole. This creates a significant demand for the need for public health nurses to provide health-promoting activities within communities nationwide.

The Public health nurse will use interventions at each of these levels described above to put into practice and contribute towards their final goal of improving the population’s health.

For example:

  1. Individual and Family-based community intervention – they may help the family and individual by speaking with them. Their job is to learn what attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and practices they have and try to change this by providing them with education and services.
  1. Community-focused population intervention – they can target an entire population or groups within that population. Their goal here is to change the community norms their attitudes and behaviors, by educating the community through awareness methods.
  1. The system-focused practice – this focus is on the system impact to be more efficient to provide long-term strategies. Their goal would be to change laws, current policies, organizations, and power structures.

The public health nurse utilizes different intervention practices based on community needs and the available resources. Many public health nurses find this career extremely rewarding because as they implement their strategies they can physically see the changes shape the community.

Public health nurses identify individual health needs to help strategize and implement health programs throughout the community.

Their duties vary based upon their setting as some may work within a community clinic.

What are the job duties of a Public Health Nurse?

  • Provide families with patient referrals, and resources by keeping an up-to-date reference list.
  • Administer patient immunizations if working in a community health clinic. Some as well as provide vaccinations. They monitor the patient to make sure there is no side effects or allergic reactions
  • Provide community health assessments within their clinic. Such as performing patient physical assessments.
  • Educate patients about the dangers of substance abuse as well as the diseases it can cause.
  • Conduct home visits with pregnant and new mothers to provide health assessments. This will also include newborn babies. Provide parenting education to families and new parents.


What education will I need to become a Public Health Nurse?

To become a public health nurse you will need to be first a registered nurse (RN). The path to qualifying to take the NCLEX-RN exam to earn your nursing license will require registering for a nursing education program.

To become a public health nurse you will need to enroll in a hospital diploma program or a college or university ADN or BSN degree in the nursing program. There are many roads to becoming a registered nurse, and the path you choose should be in line with your short and long-term career goals.

What Certification and license will I need?

If you decide, you would like to become certified although not required. Depending on where you live, your State Board of Registered Nursing may offer a Public Health Nurse (PHN) certification.


Career Outlook

The U.S Department of Labor (DOL) predicts nursing specialties will continue to be in high demand over the coming years. Additionally, the DOL predicts nurses will see the highest level of new jobs opening up. As the population ages, the need for community health nursing will continue to increase.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Registered Nurses, on the Internet at (visited January 02, 2016).


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