Public Health for Nurses: Providing Care for the Entire Population

Most nurses care for a single patient at a time, but as a public health nurse, you will care for the entire population. As you work on the health of the entire community, you will be able to provide education to the public about serious public health issues. You also will be able to boost community health and increase access to care.

As a public health nurse, you will likely work in most of the following ways:

  • Monitor trends of public health and learn about health risk factors in the community

  • Set the priorities in the community for health related interventions

  • Work with local, state and federal government to boost health care access in areas that are underserved

  • Come up with public health education campaigns and efforts to prevent disease, including campaigns for immunizations and screenings.

  • Tell the community about health care programs that are available to boost access to prevention and care.

  • Provide education to at-risk populations about direct health care services that  are available.

Where They Work

Many public health nurses work for government agencies or organizations. Others work for nonprofit organizations, community health centers and other community-based organizations that are dedicated to improving health

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Public health nurses are highly dedicated to their cause and work closely with local communities to improve public health and also access to care. They have to be able to work very well with big groups, be able to listen and to be very sensitive to cultural differences in the work place.

Career Opportunities

As with most types of nursing today, there is a strong demand for public health nurses. This is especially true in underserved and lower income areas. Also, many government organizations recognize today that preventative health and health education can really help society to reduce health care costs. So, there is more funding available for public health nursing employment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job demand will increase by 19% by 2022 in the field of nursing. It also reports that 61% of nurses overall work in a hospital, but in the public health arena, you could just as likely work for a public health organization.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, there are 34,500 public health nurses working in the US. These professionals also report a high degree of job satisfaction and job demand.

Case Study

Anneleen Severyman is a public health nurse for the South King County Mobile Medical Unit for Public Health Seattle and King County in Washington State. She wrote recently about how she was able to help a 60 year-old Native American who had been abusing alcohol since he was 12. He had been sent to several foster homes and came back from Vietnam in the 1970s with many problems.

Severyman listened to how upset he was about losing his culture and being discriminated against. He spoke with the slur of a severe alcoholic. After she spoke with him over several hours, he agreed to have some medical tests done. He was able to get a prescription for several of his health problems, and now has a better prognosis.

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By working closely with the individual with problems, a public health nurse can help to make a significant difference in lives.


BLS reports that the median salary for nurses today is $65,740.

Additional Resources


What Does a Public Health Nurse Do? – Personal Interview

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