Community Health Nursing

Community Health Nursing: Why Become a Community Health Nurse?

 community-health-nursingCommunity based delivery of health care has become increasingly prominent in today's healthcare system. Community Health Nurses (or Public Health Nurses) are in a unique position to engage in roles and activities related to these trends in healthcare delivery, and in fact, it could honestly be said that Community Health Nurses lead the effort to improve the nation's health. Community Health Nurses strive to promote health and prevent disease.

Are you becoming interested in community health nursing? You probably have some questions about this nursing field and what it might mean for your career. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers.

What is community health nursing?

Community health nursing fuses together primary health care, public health and nursing practice. This field is remarkable for its emphasis on the population as a whole. Of course, populations contain individuals, families and groups, and a community health nurse might work with any of these. However, a community health nurse always views individual care through the lens of the specific population he or she is interested in.

What exactly does a community health nurse do?

In the course of a single career, the work of a community health nurse might run the gamut from case management to educating other nurses to conducting epidemiological field research to influencing public health care policies. This is a great career for nurses who are passionate about specific topics and who want to utilize the population-based approach. As a community health nurse, you have the opportunity to work with many different agencies, hospitals, healthcare organizations, governmental agencies, policy makers, community leaders, and members of the public in order to help facilitate development of health care interventions, education, and services that will promote and improve the health and well-being of of the population. Few careers offer so many opportunities to have such a direct impact on the well-being of so many people!

For example, if you feel you have a calling to provide hands-on care to at-risk students, low-income mothers, or new immigrants, becoming a community health nurse would give you the tools you need to enhance your practice and make your findings available to other care providers. Or if you're fascinated by infectious diseases and want to research the effects of new vaccinations, studying to become a community health nurse will help you focus your research more effectively. Or perhaps you enjoy educating other nurses about technology and communications. As a community health nurse, you might present topics that demonstrate how telemedicine and communications advances are improving health care in specific populations.

How much money can a community health nurse make?

It really depends on the population you are working with and the type of practice you are doing. Just like with any field in nursing, the more advanced your education is, the higher salary you can expect to earn over the long term. If you are certified in community/public health, you will qualify for more prestigious positions. Community health nurses at various levels might make anywhere from $65,000 to $130,000 a year.

How can I become a community health nurse?

The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers certification exams for community health nurses at the advanced practice level and at the Baccalaureate level. To become a successful community health nurse, you don't necessarily need a degree in community health nursing. For example, Jacqui was a nurse practitioner student with a passionate interest in women's reproductive rights. She found that community health nursing was the perfect platform for her to practice nursing and make a difference to the community--specifically, the community of women who need reproductive health care. 

On the other hand, Emily, a community health supervisor at a private clinic, has a bachelor's degree in Public Health and a MSN degree in Community Health, and is certified as an Advanced Public Health Nurse. "The specialized training offered by my graduate nursing program prepared me to bring community health concepts into the workplace on a much deeper level," says Emily. She also says that she earns more since acquiring her MSN degree and that better job opportunities have come her way.

You can compare various degree programs at online universities by requesting free information. Keep in mind that what one school calls "community health," another might call "public health," so look at the specific classes offered to see if the educational track fits in with your career goals. Most programs allow you to fulfill your clinical requirements at your current place of work, so your studies won't interfere with your job.

Becoming a community health nurse allows you to make a lasting difference in the lives of an entire group of people, often those who are most vulnerable. Could pursuing a career in community health nursing be the next step in your nursing career journey?

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