Make your impact in a rewarding nursing specialty
Public health nursing can be an excellent specialty option for current RNs who may be interested in jobs in a non-bedside role but remain passionate about nursing and don’t want to leave the field altogether. You can make a direct impact in your community and discover a new, rewarding career path in nursing.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the steps you need to take to get started—and how you can work towards leadership positions in the field of public health nursing:
1. Understand the role of a public health nurse
Public health nurses are registered nurses who assess, evaluate, and implement interventions to improve healthcare systems and policies.
You can potentially focus your care on individuals and families in a community-oriented type of job, or focus on advocacy, policy, health promotion, and evaluating systems to improve outcomes for whole patient populations in a managerial or leadership position.
A public health nurse plays an important role in preventative care rather than reactive care. Current RNs often treat illness and disease that’s already happened—public health nurses implement measures to ensure those illnesses and diseases don’t happen at all.
Learn more about what a public health nurse does, including general job duties and some examples of daily roles and responsibilities.
2. Picture your pathway in public health nursing
You can develop knowledge and skills in public health nursing in many different ways. Some public health nurses take a more direct approach with individual patients, families, and groups in a community-based role.
Some common types of community and public health nurses include:
- Occupational nurses
- Maternal and child health nurses
- School nurses
- Nurse case managers
- Nurse consultants
- Nurse directors, managers, or administrators
Learn more about each of these types of public health nurses to discover which pathway could be best for you.
3. Earn an education
Once you have a vision for what kind of public health nurse you want to be, it’s time to choose an educational pathway to make that vision a reality.
Getting started: undergraduate study
If you are not yet a registered nurse, you’ll need to first earn an undergraduate nursing degree. While you can qualify to practice as an RN with an associate degree in nursing and degree requirements per job listing may vary, the bachelor’s degree pathway can potentially help you compete for a wider selection of jobs in public health nursing—and set a stronger foundation for advancing your education in the future.
If you are currently a licensed RN with an associate degree, for the same reason we’d recommend enrolling in an RN to BSN program to reach the bachelor’s degree level.
Climbing the ladder: graduate study
You can get a start in public health nursing as an RN with a BSN. However, if you want to advance to managerial or leadership positions, you may need to earn a master’s degree. Our Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in Public Health is designed to help you build the knowledge and skills to reach the highest levels in the field and become an influential difference-maker.
4. Earn experience
Your skills and hands-on training as a clinical RN are crucial for success when you pursue the community and public health nursing pathway.
If you’ve got leadership-level jobs in mind, understand employers will often be looking for applicants with direct experience in public health nursing.
Your next step may be to seek a job in school nursing, occupational nursing, or other type of community health nursing position to earn the firsthand experience needed to really excel in a leadership position in the future.
Certification may not be required for every public nursing job, but getting certified can help your resume stand out from the pack and better prepare you for career success.
With enough education and experience, you can potentially sit for the Certified in Public Health (CPH) exam from the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE).1