With such a variety of workplace options, it’s no surprise that there are many job titles associated with public health nursing. We’ve rounded up some of the most common job titles you’ll find in this field to give you an idea of what your options are in a public health nursing career.
Public health educators provide health and wellness information to a particular population. For example, they may hold a workshop about simple steps to lower blood pressure or an “ask anything” session for new parents with questions about vaccinations. These public health nurses need to stay creative as they develop new, relevant ways to communicate health information to their communities.
Occupational health nurses address health problems related to the workplace. This includes worker safety regarding things like proper techniques for lifting heavy items or taking safety precautions around dangerous chemicals. These nurses educate workers and employers, inspect workplaces to identify hazards and develop programs that support good physical and mental health in the workplace.
Environmental health nurses are tasked with finding environmental hazards in an area that can affect the well-being of the communities nearby. This could include risks like air or water pollution, climate change and toxic substances. Environmental health RNs work with local and state governments to fix the problem and educate the public about protecting their health.
Public health researchers aim to grow the body of clinical knowledge by developing and assisting with clinical trials and other forms of research. Their work can directly improve public health initiatives—for example, by helping to develop a new treatment for an infectious disease. Public health researchers typically work for private foundations or government health agencies.
Epidemiologists learn about infectious diseases, track infection patterns and plan for ways to treat and prevent outbreaks. They typically work with government public health agencies, conducting research to influence public health policies and keep communities safe.
What level of education is needed for public health nurses?
Public health nurses have a lot of options available to them at different levels of education. The first step for all public health nurses is to become a registered nurse. This requires an aspiring RN to graduate from nursing school, complete clinical requirements and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.
RNs who hold a Bachelor’s degree are eligible for most entry-level public nursing positions. More advanced positions, such as those related to research and epidemiology, typically require a Master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or public health (MPH). Many public health nurses begin their careers with a BSN then obtain a higher degree down the road if they want to pursue a more advanced public health role.
In some states, public health nurses may need to register to be able to use the designation PHN along with RN. There are also a variety of specialty certifications public health RNs can earn. For example, there’s the Certified in Public Health (CPH) exam and the Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) credential. Although these certifications aren’t always required, they show your level of commitment to and expertise in the field and can make a good impression on employers.
Public health RNs: Keeping communities healthy
What is a public health nurse? Now you know that these RNs have an important role in keeping communities and at-risk populations healthy. They’re the invisible superheroes of the healthcare field, preventing problems before they start and saving the day when emergencies arise.