How to Become a Public Health Nurse
A public health nurse must be a registered nurse (RN), generally with a minimum bachelor's degree in nursing. This degree must be acquired from an accredited university.
Working with health advocacy groups, volunteering, and joining and working with a neighborhood association all provide a groundwork for public nursing.
Public health, public policy, and health administration coursework all boosts your ability to become a public health nurse. Passing the national NCLEX-RN licensing exam is required for all nurses following graduation, making it legal for them to practice.
1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (4 Years)
A conventional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program takes 4 years to complete. You can take an accelerated route into nursing if you hold a bachelor’s in another field.
These accelerated BSN programs take between 12 to 18 months to complete. If you already have your RN from an associate's degree, you can do the RN-to-BSN program in 2 to 3 years, which can open you up to more opportunity and growth.
While getting your degree, learn all you can about public health, public policy, and health administration. You should find work within a community you want to work, join health advocacy groups, and do volunteer work to lay the foundation of a solid career in public health.
2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam
The National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam is administered by each state’s board of nursing.You must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to becoming a practicing nurse, which will allow you to go into the community and work.
In order to take the test, you must first apply for your nursing license from your state board. Each state is different, so you must check to see if you meet all of the requirements for your state.
The NCLEX covers the following:
- Safe, effective care environment: Management care and safety and infection control
- Psychosocial integrity: Coping and adaptation and psychosocial adaptation
- Health promotion and maintenance: Growth and development through the life span and prevention and early detection of disease
- Physiology integrity: Basic care and comfort, pharmacological and parenteral therapies, reduction of risk potential and physiological adaptation
3. Earn a Master of Science in Nursing or Public Health (Optional)
With an RN degree, you can go ahead and start working in the field and get hired in many communities as a Public Health Nurse, but since there is no voluntary certification exam for Public Health Nursing, you can become an Advanced Public Health Nurse (AVPN).
This will prepare you for some jobs that require a graduate degree, administrative jobs, research and teaching positions.
You will gain over 2,000 hours of field work and, when your portfolio is built, you can pass your Advanced Public Health Nursing certification with your portfolio and become an Advanced Public Health Nurse.
4. Maintain Certification Through Continuing Education
Continuing education is required if you obtain your Advanced Public Health Nursing certification (APHN). You must renew your certification every 5 years.
You have to keep your RN credentials up to date, you you are required to take a certain number continuing education hours, varying by state. Since Public Health Nursing is more of a specialty, you can take courses tailored to your field of community care.