Welcome to our interactive and incisive Public Health Nurse article.

If you read this article to the end, we promise you’ll have expert knowledge on everything that is to do with a career in public health nursing.

We will specifically focus on the following key areas:

  • What is Public Health Nursing
  • How to Become a Public Health Nurse
  • Best Public Health Nurse programs

Let’s get started!


introduction of public health nurse

Public Health Nurses are vital in preventing, mitigating, and evaluating potential health concerns that affect the general population.

From administering vaccination to educating the public on proper hygiene and sanitation procedures, Public Health Nurses provide the most basic and essential nursing services.

The Public Health Nurse designation is nothing new, dating back to the 1800s when disease outbreaks and pandemics were common.

Public Health Providers help identify the risk factors and other potential hazards that could adversely affect the health and wellness of the public. 

What is Public Health Nursing?

What is Public Health Nursing

The public health practice focuses on providing quality preventive and mitigation healthcare services to the general population.

According to the American Public Health Association, Public Health Nursing is “the practice of promoting and protecting the health of populations using knowledge from nursing, social, and public health sciences.”

Public Health Nursing combines practical nursing principles, continuing health education, policy development, and advocacy to promote, maintain and improve the general health of communities.

Public Health Nursing is based on:

  • Population-based health assessment and policy development
  • Community participation and development
  • Injury and disease prevention and mitigation
  • Population and primary community health promotion
  • Community public health advocacy, education, and sensitization
  • Statistics based public health data collection, interpretation, and dissemination
  • Effective collaboration with different healthcare players to implement effective community health policies and plans

Community public health nursing ensures that vulnerable and exposed communities have access to timely, affordable, and high-quality preventive health services.

How to Become a Public Health Nurse (PHN)

Here is a step-by-step process of becoming a Public Health Nurse

Public Health Nurses are experienced and trained nursing professionals who must satisfy some requirements before practicing professionally.

Here is a step-by-step process of becoming a Public Health Nurse:

1. Attend a Nursing Program

The first step toward becoming a Public Health Nurse is to earn a Registered Nurse (RN) certification.

You can earn an RN certification by enrolling in a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or associate degree in nursing (ADN) program from accredited nursing institutions.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing will allow you to earn an RN certification which is the basic requirement for a professional Public Health Nursing practice.

The four-year BSN program is preferred more than the two-year ADN nursing program.

Consider enrolling in a degree program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

Accredited nursing programs allow you to enjoy federal financial aid and give you an edge in the job market.

 2. Pass the National Council Licensure Exam -Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) exam

The NCLEX-RN is a standardized, nationwide nurse certification exam that tests your clinical knowledge, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

This National Council of States Board of Nursing (NCSBN) approved competency exam comprises between 75 and 165 multiple-choice questions over six hours.

The NCLEX-RN exam will test you on:

  • Safe and effective care management
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Health maintenance and promotion 
  • Physiological integrity

3. Gain experience 

Passing the NCLEX-RN exam will get you licensed as an RN, but you’ll need to gain further experience to qualify as a Public Health Nurse.

It is advisable to get two years of public health experience before applying for public health certification.

Consider starting your professional RN journey with an entry-level public health position which will allow you to gauge if the public health career fits your interests.

Working for health departments that deal with community health issues like immunizations and other public health interventions is perfect for gaining relevant public health experience.

4. Get Public Health Certification

Duly qualified RNs interested in becoming Public Health Nurses must get a Public Health Nurse certification from the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE).

To qualify for a Certified Public Health certificate, you must:

  • Have relevant public health experience

A relevant bachelor’s degree with five years of public health experience OR

A graduate degree with at least three years of relevant public health experience OR

Have a school or program certificate from institutions accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) and three years of public health experience.

  • Be a current student of a public health program with CEPH accreditation
  • Be a graduate of a public health school or program accredited by CEPH

Now that you know the process required to become a Public Health Nurse, where can you get public health education?

Best Public Health Nurse Programs

Here is a list of the top community and Public Health Nursing programs available to you:

Before joining a public health program, consider the program’s pass rate, accreditation, study period, admission requirements, curriculum, and teaching method (online or offline).

Here is a list of the top community and Public Health Nursing programs available to you:

1. University of California, San Francisco

The University of California offers an interactive and specialized Master of Science in advanced public health nursing degree (APHN) that prepares students to deliver specialized and high-quality public health services.

The APHN program teaches the principles of leadership, collaboration, and advocacy in public health.

Students taking this degree program work as Senior Public Health Consultants and in other public health leadership roles.

2. George Washington University

The George Washington University master of public health program is a 12-month online program that prepares students for a career in public health.

This program focuses on equipping students with relevant and current public health training to change in the public health sector.

The George Washington program is CEPH accredited and allows you to earn a master’s in public health (MPH) degree.

3. University of Pennsylvania 

The University of Pennsylvania offers a unique dual Masters of Public Health and Masters of Science in Nursing (MPH-MSN) degree that prepares students for leadership roles in public health.

Through this program, students are introduced to the principles of biostatistics, public health administration and policy, occupational and environmental health, patient safety, and administrative nursing practice.

4. University of Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin offers nursing to master public health advanced degree programs.

This unique program allows nursing students to take a public health master’s program while still in nursing school.

The advanced MPH program from Wisconsin University allows nursing students to maximize their time and gain skills and training to transition into an MPH program seamlessly.

Where do Public Health Nurses work?

Where do Public Health Nurses work

Public Health Nurses are essential members of the healthcare system and work across different sectors of society.

Some of the places Public Health Nurses work include:

1. Community clinics

Federally qualified health centers or community clinics provide access to quality, affordable and convenient healthcare services to underserved communities.

These community clinics remove the barriers of cost, lack of insurance, distance, and language, enabling high-risk populations to access healthcare services more easily.

Public Health Nurses work in community clinics and provide different healthcare services to the general population and maintain the public’s well-being.

Services rendered by Public Health Nurses include:

  • Administering vaccinations
  • Treating common illnesses and conditions
  • Evaluating and documenting patient’s conditions
  • Promoting health policies including hand washing, toilet hygiene, and water treatment
  • Develop and implement awareness programs around community health issues, including substance abuse, teen pregnancies, infectious diseases, and obesity

2. Government agencies

Public Health Nurses feature in various government agencies, especially those that deal with the community health nursing sector.

The roles of a Public Health Nurse in government include influencing public health policy and educating and sensitizing the public on public health issues.

Public Health Nurses work in federal and state health departments, correctional facilities, research agencies, and public education institutions.

3. Non-profit organizations

Working for non-profit organizations is a popular career choice for most Public Health Nurses due to the favorable working conditions, great pay, and positive impact on public health.

Public Health Nurses working for non-profit organizations often advocate, sensitize and educate the public on population health matters.

The role of Public Health Nurses in non-profit organizations includes:

  • Collecting relevant public health data 
  • Provide direct patient care
  • Conducting public health awareness and outreach programs
  • Advocating for policy change
  • Evaluating and monitoring public health programs
  • Conducting fundraising, writing grants and proposals

4. School systems

Public Health Nurses provide essential nursing services to students in public schools, colleges, and universities.

Some of the duties of Public Health Nurses in schools include:

  • Providing direct patient care to students
  • Educating and sensitizing students on proper health, nutrition, and hygiene protocols
  • Administering immunizations, supplements, and other forms of treatments
  • Monitor and evaluate students with chronic and high-risk health issues
  • Develop and implement public health programs that deal with substance abuse, sexual and mental health

What does a Public Health Nurse do?

Public Health Nurse roles and responsibilities

Public Health Nurse roles and responsibilities

A Public Health RN carries out a variety of tasks and duties, all geared toward improving the state of public health within communities.

Here are the roles of a Public Health Nurse:

1. Analyze risk factors and health trends in communities to prepare population-specific health interventions

2. Liaise with public health officials and other concerned healthcare providers to develop and implement appropriate disease prevention and public health promotion policies

3. Participate in community health education and mobilization

4. Track and manage community health program budgets

5. Asses the reach and effectiveness of community health programs, ensuring that underserved population groups have access to public health programs and services

6. Deliver high-quality primary patient care and prepare accurate treatment plans, including immunizations and health screening

7. Build solid relationships with patients allowing the health RN to identify common community health problems

8. Advise and provide relevant input in multidisciplinary public health teams

9. Collect valuable statistical health data based on different demographics and population sets

10. Participate in training other public health officials, community leaders, and other stakeholders on proper preventive health measures

11. Referring patients to other healthcare providers for assessment and treatment

Individuals interested in public health nursing need to have specific qualities.

Qualities of an Effective Health Nurse

Qualities of an effective Health Nurse

1. Excellent communication skills

As a Public Health Nurse, you will need to interact with different people daily, and having excellent communication skills will make your job easier.

2. Solid project management know-how 

Public Health Nurses are often involved in different community projects, and having project management skills is essential.

3. Teamwork

Public health is a multidisciplinary practice that requires collaboration between different stakeholders for project success.

4. Strong work ethic

Having integrity and a strong work ethic allows Public Health Nurses to execute their duties diligently and deliver the best results possible.

5. Problem-solving skills

Public Health RNs face numerous challenges in their daily operations, including budgeting and logistical issues that require practical problem-solving skills.

6. Leadership skills

As a Public Health Nurse, your typical duties will require you to offer leadership skills in different activities, including spurring community change. 

7. Analytic skills

The ability to correctly analyze and interpret situations to make the correct decision that leads to a favorable outcome is crucial to a Public Health Nurse.

8. Adaptability

The public health landscape is rapidly changing, and the ability to adapt to new scenarios and public health challenges will make you a better PHN.

9. Initiative 

Being a self-starter and showing initiative in your Public Health Nursing duties will guarantee that you meet deadlines and achieve your targets.

10. Interpersonal skills

Strong interpersonal skills ensure that you maintain a healthy relationship with your colleagues, management, and the community, the key to public health success.

What kinds of jobs do Public Health Nurses do?

Public Health Nurse careers

Public Health Nurse careers

There are different Public Health RN jobs, including;

1. Public Health Educator

Public Health Educators are healthcare professionals that specialize in teaching communities about behaviors and practices that promote health and wellness.

As a Public Health RN, you satisfy the requirements of this job.

The duties of a Public Health Educator include educating people on nutrition, environmental health, disease prevention, and substance abuse.

2. Disaster Specialist

This Public Health Nurse job requires the PHN to train and coordinate public health professionals during emergencies.

The Disaster Specialist will use their RN training and experience to prevent worsening artificial and natural health disasters.

3. Health Services Research Analyst

As a qualified RN, your insights on health matters allow you to collect and document crucial health services data that is instrumental in preparing policy documents.

4. Public Health Planner

A Public Health Planner assesses vulnerable communities’ public health needs and challenges.

Using the statistical data from these public health studies, a Public Health Planner can develop and measure the effectiveness of public health policies.

5. Public Health Project Specialist

A Public Health Project Specialist ensures the smooth running of public health projects, preparing project budgets and contingency plans.

Please note that most public health careers require further training and specialization apart from the Public Health Nurse certification.


conclusion on public health nurse

The Public Health Nursing Section of the healthcare sector focuses on providing basic healthcare services to communities.

Working as a Public Health Nurse allows you to impact the health and wellness of the public positively.

The Public Health Nurse job description involves coordinating, liaising, and working collaboratively with other healthcare providers, communities, and teammates.

The Public Health Nursing salary, job title, and designation depend on education, training, and skill levels.

We hope that this comprehensive article has answered all your Public Health Nursing questions.

Please continue reading for in-depth answers to the common frequently asked questions.


FAQs on public health nurse

How long does it take to become a Public Health Nurse?

It takes over four years to earn the Public Health Nurse designation. You will have to earn an Associate degree in nursing (2-years) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (4-years). After the degree, you’ll need a Public Health Nursing certification that requires some years of experience.

How much does a Public Health Nurse make?

Here are the Public Health Nurse salaries estimates:
– Salary.com – $54000-$93000 per year (Washington, DC)
– Glassdoor – $60000 -$120000 per year
– Ziprecruiter – $39000 – $86000 per year (Maryland)
– Indeed.com – $65117 ($11875 overtime pay)
– Nursejournal.org – $ 60010 ( $ 29.47 per hour)
– Zippia – $ 58019 (27.89 per hour)

What is a PHN in nursing?

A Public Health Nurse (PHN) is a trained and qualified nursing practitioner specializing in promoting and protecting public health. The PHN uses scientific, social, and public health knowledge to initiate and implement nursing procedures and programs that maintain proper population-level health outcomes.

Is Public Health Nursing a good career?

A career in the public health sector is perfect for individuals committed to making a lasting impact on society. Public Health Nurses contribute significantly to the well-being and health of communities, especially the underprivileged ones. The public health nursing job satisfaction is high with a great work-life balance.

What is a Public Health Nurse?

A public Health Nurse is a professional Nurse Practitioner who deals with healthcare issues that affect entire populations. Unlike a Clinical Nurse who usually deals with individuals, Public Health Nurses often work with communities. Public Health Nurses require an RN license and certification from the NBPHE.

What is the qualification of the Public Health Nurse?

According to the American Association of Public Health (APHA), Public Health Nurse requirements include:
– Meeting the minimum educational requirements (ADN or BSN)
– Being a licensed RN
– Gaining relevant public health experience
– Getting certification from the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE)
– Getting a PHN degree in Advanced Public Health Nurse

How to get Public Health Nurse certificate

Here is how to get public health certification:
1. Enroll for a two year ADN OR 4 year BSN degree from an accredited institution
2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
3. Gain relevant public health nursing experience
4. Get PHN certification from the National Board of Public Health Examiners







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