Community Health Nurse – Public Health Nursing Professionals
The community nurse health professional is a challenging career for the well trained nurse. These public health nurse professionals are often employed in public health clinics, well baby clinics, community outreach clinics and state immunization or nutritional supplement programs for children. The skills required for this challenging profession include assessment and screening, patient counselling, as well as standard nursing procedures.
Community Health Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice
The exact job description of the Community health nurse varies with the agency that employs this nurse. However, there are certain roles the nurse will be expected to assume in any agency. The community health nurse usually conducts the initial screening of the patient including health status, allergies and complaints. This is the point the health nurse will normally screen the patient for risk factors or potential problems.
The nurse will give prescribed treatments to patients in applicable settings according to the physician’s orders. The nurse may refer patients to other services as well in order to enhance their overall health such as referring eligible pregnant mothers to nutritional programs. The community nurse may also screen patients for substance abuse problems or high risk behaviours. The community health nurse often prepares the plan of care and makes provisions for necessary health services for qualifying patients.
How to Become a Community Health Nurse
The community health nurse must hold a current RN license. Although BSN nurses are preferred by most public and private community health agencies, RNs with associate degrees and demonstrable experience in public health nursing may be considered by some agencies. Higher level administrative and clinical supervisory positions are generally held by nurses with a Bachelor level or above degree. All community health nurses should have continuing education in the public health field.
Community Health Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs
The community health nurse must have at least an Associate degree in order to be employed by most public health nursing agencies. State funded programs may have additional requirements concerning the amount and type of work experience the nurse must have.
- Successfully complete a 4 year nursing program (BSN) or 2 year Nursing program (ASN)
- Students seeking administrative and supervisory positions in community health nursing often hold an MSN in community health or clinical nursing with a community health focus.
- Take the state board test and hold a current RN License
- Continuing education hours and clinical experience in public health nursing is required by many agencies. Nurses holding an Associate degree may be required to have at least one year in public health nursing.
- Certification for Community Health Nurses was available and demonstrated a high level of competency in community health. Requirements for certification were at least 500 clinical practice hours during the Master’s program. This certification program was available to nurses holding a BSN who had had at least 2 years experience in nursing. However, The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) has discontinued testing and certification for individuals nursing in the community health field. Those who possess certification can renew their certifications though, but new certifications are not being awarded currently. Community health nurses are organized under the American Nurses Association (ANA).
Community Health Nurse Salary and Career Outlook
The community health nurse career is projected to grow at an excellent rate of around 21% by the Bureau of Labor Statistics through the year 2018.
Advancement potential for this nursing specialty is excellent for the well prepared nurse with a Bachelor or Master level nursing degree. The average community health nurse salary is around $51,000 per year.