How to Become a Public Health Nurse

A public health nurse cares for the general public through work in hospitals, clinics, doctor offices, and other health care facilities. If you want to improve the health in your community, you may want to learn how to become a public health nurse. This is one of the most widespread careers in the medical field, but it is also one of the most highly demanded ones. Here is a guide explaining how to get involved with public health nursing so you can progress towards your future.

Step 0 – Determine If This Is the Right Career for You

Before you can learn how to become a public health nurse, you need to figure out if this is the right career for you. Qualities of a good public health nurse include:

  • A genuine care for the health of others
  • The ability to multi-task at all times
  • A general knowledge of the medical field
  • The ability to learn new skills on the fly
  • An approachable and trustworthy personality

Public health nurses have to be incredibly patient because they often have to work with irate or confused individuals in need of special attention. If you are rude, slow, impatient, or lazy, you will not do well as a public health nurse. If, on the other hand, you are able to maintain your composure in the middle of stressful situations, you might fair quite well in this career path. You just have to think about the job description of a public health nurse and determine if you would like to be involved with that.

Step 1 – Get an Education

Once you have assessed this career in detail, you will be able to get the training you need to become a public health nurse. There are several college degree programs you can go through for this, but all of them can lead you to some sort of work in nursing. Popular degree programs include:

  • Diploma in Nursing (DN)
  • Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

If you only want to work in entry level positions in public health nursing, you should be able to find work with a DN or ADN. You can get your degree in less than two years, and then you can immediately find work in the lower levels of the nursing field. If you want to pursue a career of a slightly higher level, you may look into a BSN. That will take roughly four years to complete, depending on the registered nurse program you go through. If you want to get involved with a management or research position for this career, you will need an MSN or higher.

Step 2 – Pass a Licensure Exam

After you have completed your degree to become a nurse, you can go through a licensure exam to get certified as a registered nurse. The most common test for this is known as the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses or NCLEX-RN. You are allowed to take the test multiple times if you do not pass the first time, but most people have enough education to get through the exam without a problem. You may need to complete other certification programs before working as a public health nurse in your community, depending on what the requirements are for your area. Speak with the nursing board for your state for more information.

Step 3 – Gain Work Experience

You may have to go through an internship before working as a public health nurse. That will primarily depend on your existing work experience and the demand for nurses in your area. It should not take more than a year for you to be able to find work as a legitimate public health nurse, so you might just want to take the first year to learn everything you can about the field. Then you can actually go about starting your career.

Step 4 – Find a Job

Finding a job in public health nursing is not difficult because there is such a high demand for these professionals across the country. You can work in just about any health care facility you can think of, including home health services and nursing homes. With the right education behind you, you will be able to find a job in this industry without much effort at all.