Public Health Nursing

Public Health Nursing

Jennifer Fink | NursingLink

Critical Skills

Public health nurses must possess:

• Excellent interpersonal skills. Public health nurses often work with the most vulnerable members of a community – as well as some of the most connected. Public health nurses should be able to interact easily with all kind of people. Basic conflict resolution and negotiation skills are useful also.

• Patience. It’s not easy to improve the health of a community. Public health nurses must be prepared to put in a ton of time and effort before they notice any measurable difference.

• The ability to see the big picture. Public health nurses think big. When they see a patient with TB, they immediately begin thinking about the threat to the larger community. While public health nurses certainly help individual patients, it’s never just about the individual. Public health nurses want to know what community conditions facilitate disease, and plan steps to improve the health of the community.

• An understanding of data. Public health nurses collect and collate information and statistics, and share that information with community stakeholders to convince them to take action. They also track data to evaluate the effectiveness of health interventions.


While a BSN isn’t specifically required to work as a public health nurse, it’s often preferred. BSN programs (as compared to ADN programs) offer separate courses in statistics, community health and change theory. These courses form the backbone of a public health nurse’s practice.

Increasingly, public health agencies are looking for graduate-prepared nurses to lead health initiatives. In future years, a DNP may become the degree of choice for nurses specializing in public health.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers specialty certification in public health nursing. Nurses who pass the Advanced Public Health Nursing exam are eligible to use the credentials APHN- BC (advanced public health nurse – board certified). Some states (such as California) require nurses to apply for state certification before claiming the title “public health nurse.”


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for Registered Nurses in 2010 was approximately $65,000. Wages, though, vary widely by location. reports an average annual salary of $51,000 for public health nurses.

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