Public Health Nurse - How to Become a Public Health Nurse

Public Health Nurse (PHN)

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Public Health Nurse (PHN) Job Description


Public health nurses are responsible for helping to manage and improve the health not just of single individuals, but of whole communities and populations. They interact directly with communities, helping to build healthier lifestyles and environments that make people healthier overall and prevent diseases and medical problems before they occur. They help boost access to care, educate people on improving their health and safety, and serve as a go-between with government health organizations to help communities.

Public health nurses also offer care and health services to people who have difficulty accessing them, in addition to their vital education activities. They carry out screening and preventive care in the community environment rather than in the hospital and may aid in setting up vaccination clinics or temporary clinics in low-income areas.




Besides developing public health programs like vaccination and screening, public health nurses monitor health trends and identify potential problems in a population. They provide information, advice, and data on where to seek care to people, and serve as advocates working to improve community health services provided by the government.

Public health nurses spend considerable time educating the public in useful health knowledge, including how to care for sick or disabled relatives, how to prevent or quickly detect diseases, provide actionable safety demonstrations, and provide useful advice on healthier nutrition. This empowers people to take better care of their health and live healthier lives with higher quality of life.

Public health nurses often work in rural or low-income communities to provide childhood immunization, offer other health services, and inform older people on good methods for increasing their health and safety. They also remain alert for signs of community health problems developing and alert other professionals if additional aid is needed.




They must possess excellent communication skills to teach people in clear, easy to understand language how to achieve a healthier lifestyle or administer care to one another. The ability to meet various cultures and handle interactions with them sensitively is indispensable since they interact with people from all walks of life.

They need to be good listeners, know how to prepare and organize programs and plans for community health improvement, and manage very limited resources to achieve positive health outcomes for the community. Dedication and hard work are both musts because it is a demanding job and requires a ton of travel and field work.


Working Conditions


These professionals often work for community health organizations, government organizations at the local, state, or federal level, or nonprofit organizations. Public health nurses carry out extensive field work and spend a large amount of time in the community rather than an office setting, often engaging in significant travel to reach places their service is needed. They may work alone or as part of a team, and are in frequent contact with diverse people. 



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's 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 

Related: Top 10 Best NCLEX-RN Review Books


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. 



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