Public Health Nursing in Practice

The number of job titles in nursing is staggering. It is an industry with a job title for every temperament and skill set. There are nurse practitioners that perform many of the functions as a physician. There are practical nurses and nurse midwives. There are nurses with specific responsibilities in a medical discipline, from anesthesiology to cardiology. Public health nursing is the medical discipline that allows you to help a diverse group of patients all at once by looking at the health of large groups of interconnected people rather than the health of one. It also has a long list of responsibilities and requirements. Public health nursing requires uniquely talented and properly trained individuals to reach the top of the field.

First and foremost, public health nursing in practice is about education. Public health nurses must teach the public about health threats to their communities. This means going to schools, community centers, and other public institutions to teach people about steps they need to take to maintain their health. This information might be about an outbreak of disease or an epidemic that threatens a given community. If a certain strain of flu were to break out in an area, for example, public health nurses give communities the facts regarding the outbreak. They dispel superstitions and gossip and teach community leaders and members how to avoid contact with the disease and recommend preventative measures like flu shots.

Public health nurses teach about the relationship between nutrition and health. They often work with young people to teach healthy eating and living habits at an early stage in life when it will likely have the most impact. They teach groups of mothers and parents about best practices in prenatal health and how to take care of infants when they return home for the first time. These interventions have the biggest impact on community health because problems in childhood are correlative with health problems later in life.

Public health nurses work to help patients gain access to medical care. One of the most important factors in community health is a given communityís access to health care. People who go for medical checkups and dental care on a regular basis are healthier in general than those who do not. Public health nursing helps underserved communities gain access to health care. This is done largely through outreach programs, bringing such vital medical practices as vaccination, testing, and clinical care to communities. This might be done through weekly nurse participation in temporary locations. This means that public health nurses are providing primary care to underserved communities. In this respect they are taking on the responsibilities of a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse. It might also be through outreach for a community clinic or health care provider. Finally, public health nurses advocate with governments and health care providers to extend health care services as widely as possible.

Specializing in public health nursing is possible through a variety of nursing degree programs. Many states require public health nurses to take special coursework in their discipline. There are masterís degrees in public health nursing, but there are also certificate course available to those with a related bachelorís degree or other appropriate work experience. Most programs target the competencies that public health nurses need. These include the history of public health and epidemiology. Public health nurses need to understand nutrition and health for different demographics, such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Public health nurses learn about unpleasant truths about mortality and morbidity so that they can serve during emergencies and disasters.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014