Career Profile: Public Health Nurse

By Brenda on January 2nd, 2012


The majority of nurses see patients individually, treating them one person at a time, but not a public health nurse.  They treat populations of people by working with communities to improve health and safety.  The role of a public health nurse is to education groups of people about health issues that may directly affect them.  Public health nurses promote health, safety and increase the public’s access to health care.

Job Description and Duties

One of the primary duties of a public health nurse is to monitor the health trends within a specific community or population.  This may include identifying risk factors associated with health and setting local priorities for interventions needed to provide the largest benefit for most people within the specific and localized community.

A public health nurse also works as an advocate with local authorities, as well as state and federal, to improve health conditions for underserved populations within a given area.  Health education campaigns are enforced and public awareness is created through the work of a public health nurse.  At risk populations are educated and direct health care services are typically provided by a public health nurse.

Typical Working Conditions

Most public health nurses work for government agencies or non-profit groups and organizations. The aim of the public health nurse is to improve the local community and its health.  Most work alone and independently but with planners that assist with goal meeting.  In addition to serving the community, many public health nurses work behind the scenes planning workshops, meeting and activities that increase public awareness.  Budget planning, evaluating current public health plans and fighting for initiatives are all a part of the working conditions that occur behind the scenes for a public health nurse.

Travel is a key element of the working conditions of the public health nurse.  Some may travel locally or regionally to perform the duties of their job.  They bring health care services into underserved communities and as a result must travel into these locations on a consistent basis. 

Job Outlook and Salary

The outlook for the public health nurse career is increasing and expected to gain momentum with regards to employment and salary over the next ten years.  Health nurses are in demand for underserved and low income populations and the effort to bring health education services to these communities is needed.  Many government and state agencies are hiring more public health nurses to satisfy the demand for health care needs.

Bilingual nurses are in high demand due to the diversity of populations served by the public health nurse.  Nurses that speak both English and Spanish fluently are needed in most locations and the demand is increasing at a dramatic rate.

The average salary for the public health nurse is approximately $55,000 and expected to increase over the next five years.  The job pays well for entry level nurses and most employed in this industry find great personal rewards.  Salaries vary greatly by location; however the average is fairly consistent.



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