What is a Community Health Nurse?

A community health nurse or public health nurse is vital in educating the community about healthcare risks and diseases.

These specialized nurses provide community health services and advocate for healthy living and disease prevention.

As a result, they often work within the residential areas and population instead of at the bedside.

Community health nurses use their knowledge and training to improve societal health factors.

According to the American Public Health Association, community health nurses promote and protect the health of populations using knowledge from nursing, social, and public health sciences.

Therefore, these specialists perform numerous duties in various settings to ensure the well-being of those they serve.

The following article explores a community health nurse’s responsibilities, work settings, and career path.

What Do Community Health Nurses Do?

Community health nurses focus on several areas related to the community’s healthcare.

It includes the communities lifestyle, the work individuals in the area perform, and the foods and diets they consume.

They also examine the community’s average age and sex, common healthcare problems, environmental factors, family health, social health, and genetic factors.

It enables these specialists to determine the best ways to enhance the lives of those within the local community they serve.

Community health nurses may also act as advocates for better healthcare promotion.

In addition, they’ll work with the community, state, and government to push for better healthcare standards and reforms.

Healthcare Factors they Examine:

  • Environmental Health
  • Nutrition and lifestyle
  • Social health
  • Genetic factors
  • Immunization
  • Infection prevention
  • Disease control
  • Age-related health issues 
  • Community health problems
  • Sanitary practices

Community nurses can direct people to effective, low-cost solutions that reduce hospital visits and healthcare costs by promoting better healthcare, proper exercise, quality rest, and good nutrition practices.

Where Do Community Health Nurses Work?

Community nurses work in various settings to promote better health care and spread the word.

It includes hospitals, schools, home health services, community health centers, nurse advocacy groups, and government agencies.

Community health nurses may set up discussions and presentations to educate the community on existing and future healthcare issues.

They may also demonstrate health practices communities can implement on the individual, family, and community levels.

The following list explores nursing specializations that work directly with the community to improve healthcare standards.

Nurses Who Work with the Community:

Career Path for Community Health Nurses

There are many career paths for community or public health nurses.

For instance, they work in child health services, schools, nurse advocacy groups, public health, and home health services.

Community health nurses often start careers as registered nurses in direct patient care facilities.

These healthcare specialists may work at local hospitals that treat patients with similar health issues.

In this example, a registered nurse may identify that diabetes or cancer is relatively high within a specific location.

Understanding commonalities within communities enables them to examine an entire area’s health problems.

From there, the registered nurse may decide to work with the community by educating them on better lifestyle practices.

They may also advocate for preventative services to treat the community before they become diabetic or cancerous.

Becoming a community health nurse is an excellent way for professionals to provide preventative care.

They look at factors that affect the health of communities and intervene before advanced medical care is necessary.

How To Become A Community Health Nurse

Becoming a community health nurse is ideal for those who want to work with their communities to improve their health.

Nevertheless, joining this specialization requires years of education, discipline, and hard work.

Aspiring community nurses must join a nursing school, earn a degree, pass the NCLEX, gain experience, and get certified.

They must also acquire multiple skills, community health knowledge, and a positive attitude.

The following section explores the steps community health nurses must satisfy to operate in this specialization.

1. Join a Nursing Program

The first step to becoming a community health nurse is to join a nursing program.

Accredited nursing programs require students to complete numerous prerequisite courses before joining their school.

As a result, students must enter a college offering accredited nursing school prerequisite courses and complete them first.

Depending on the student’s prior education, it takes roughly 6 – 24 months to complete the necessary prerequisites.

Students must also retain an acceptable GPA, as many nursing schools use it to qualify students for their programs.

After completing the required courses and maintaining a suitable GPA, students can apply to the nursing program.

2. Obtain an ADN or BSN degree

Students joining the nursing program can pursue either an ADN or BSN degree.

The ADN degree takes approximately 18 – 24 months to complete and provides students with formal nursing education.

This degree is ideal for students who want to join the nursing field quickly, earn money and acquire an entry-level position.

Obtaining an ADN enables registered nurses to acquire work experience in the shortest amount of time.

Nevertheless, registered nurses who want to specialize in numerous advanced domains must acquire their BSN degree.

The BSN degree takes roughly 36 – 48 months to complete and provides a more comprehensive nursing education.

As a result, registered nurses with a BSN earn more money, have more career choices, and enter different fields easier.

3. Pass the NCLEX-RN

At the end of the nursing programs, students must take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

The NCLEX-RN exam is a national test determining whether students have sufficient education to become registered nurses.

As a result, passing the examination is necessary to obtain licensure as a registered nurse.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing creates the NCLEX exam to test nursing school graduates’ competencies.

4. Gain Experience

After passing the NCLEX-RN exam and becoming a licensed registered nurse, it’s important to gain work experience.

Gaining work experience allows registered nurses to understand better the healthcare system and the patients they serve.

It also enables them to develop vital skills often required by employers hiring community health nurses.

Many employers prefer registered nurses with one to two years of direct care experience.

It ensures they adequately understand how to provide care and the factors that impact patient and community health.

5. Get Certified

Not all community health nurses require certification to work in this profession.

Nevertheless, certification demonstrates to employers that a registered nurse is sufficiently trained and educated.

Certified community/public health nurses earn more, get jobs faster, and can pursue specific public health fields easier.

Those pursuing certification in community/public health nursing must ensure the certificate is valid.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (ACCN) retired the Advanced Public Health Nurse (APHN) certification.

However, registered nurses with a BSN and five years or more of public health experience can get the Certification in Public Health (CPH).

The Masters in Public Health Nursing Degree

Community health nurses who want to further their education can pursue a postgraduate program to obtain their MSN.

Nevertheless, applicants must possess a BSN and adequate work experience before applying for the postgraduate program.

Depending on the college’s program, they may refer to their degree as an MSN in community health or public health nursing.

The MSN program takes about 18 – 24 months to complete and prepares nurses for advanced roles within their specializations.

Registered nurses with an MSN pursue leadership positions in government, education, and other advanced careers.

Finding a Job

Those who work as registered nurses may find community health opportunities among various employers.

It includes government institutes, not-for-profit organizations, and community healthcare centers in the local area.

Each employer has specific requirements needed to hire community health nurses.

As a result, you’ll want to determine their prerequisites to ensure you qualify for the position.

Aspiring community health nurses can also find careers online by searching for jobs in their local area.

Community Health Nursing Overview

Community health nursing focuses on improving the healthcare standards of a particular community.

It accomplishes improving healthcare through public awareness and healthcare reform.

Community health nurses communicate and collaborate with local school districts, universities, healthcare centers, and other public healthcare settings.

It enables them to spread the word, collect community data, design better healthcare plans, influence healthcare reform, and get the community involved in improving their lives.

Those who work in this field are generally registered nurses with years of healthcare training.

These professionals have a passion for improving the lives of those around them.

Community health nurses work with or for the local government, non for profit agencies, and community healthcare organizations.

They may advocate for better healthcare reforms and expand public awareness.

They may also work independently, as contractors, or as a group with other community health nurses.

Individuals and groups in community health nursing may monitor local healthcare trends and collect information on various topics.

It includes the community’s lifestyle, work/life balance, the average age, sex, and weight of individuals in the community, family activity levels, indoor/outdoor activities available to the community, and genetic health care factors.

They also look at a host of other data so that it can be collected and analyzed to find ways to improve the community’s healthcare standards and educate individuals about the dangers of continuing unhealthy life practices.

Community health nurses are vital for improving the healthcare standards of their local communities.

However, they’re also essential for aiding in preventing healthcare problems from developing in the first place.

By tracking and analyzing trends, community health nurses can stay several steps ahead of potential issues that are likely to arise.

Career Outlook

As local and state populations expand and older adults grow at increasing rates, community health nursing will become increasingly crucial to the healthcare industry.

These professionals will significantly impact local communities’ healthcare standards, both small and large.

It means more job opportunities for nurses and expanding career pathways in the community healthcare domain.

Community nurses can significantly impact a local healthcare system, from regional doctor offices and retirement housing to local school districts and town hospitals.

If enough communities become deeply involved in improving their general health care, it can improve healthcare standards and awareness for the entire state.

In addition, when used effectively, community health nursing can create positive changes throughout the healthcare industry.