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What Is Public Health Nursing?

Public health nursing has positive effects on our communities.

Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system—and not just in clinics and hospitals. Many nurses are using their nursing and healthcare knowledge to help entire communities live better, healthier lives. Instead of treating one patient at a time, these nurses work with entire communities to prevent disease, monitor health trends, educate, improve community health, and expand healthcare access before anyone needs treatment. They even act as advocates for underserved communities at the state and local level.

It’s called public health nursing, and it’s a great career for anyone seeking to make a difference in their community.

What Is Public Health Nursing?

What Exactly Is Public Health Nursing?

Saying that public health nursing seeks to make communities healthier is one thing; actually succeeding is entirely another. To make a real difference, public health nurses first must acquire an advanced understanding of the issues affecting individual and community health. In fact, many in the public health nursing field hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and have worked in various areas of nursing and healthcare. Their wealth of knowledge helps them develop and manage programs and initiatives aimed at addressing the most pressing health concerns facing specific communities.

Those in public health nursing:

  • Set local, population-focused priorities for health-related interventions to provide the greatest benefit to the most people.
  • Develop system-level programs to address primary prevention, illness prevention, and health promotion.
  • Monitor health trends and identify health risk factors unique to specific communities.
  • Advocate with local, state, and federal officials to improve access to health services for underserved communities.
  • Design and implement health education campaigns and disease prevention activities for a specific population to promote health and address chronic illness and infectious diseases.
  • Educate the community about available healthcare programs and services to improve access to care for vulnerable and at-risk populations.
  • Plan public health services at the system level.
  • Establish organizational relationships, processes, and system improvements to enhance collaboration and cooperation among stakeholders in population‐focused health policies.

Where Do Public Health Nurses Work?

Jobs for health educators—which include public health nursing—are expected to grow at a faster than average rate over the coming decade.* The need for more health educators has opened up leadership positions for public health nurses in diverse settings, such as public health departments, home health agencies, schools, wellness centers, and rural and urban healthcare facilities. With the requisite experience, public health nursing jobs can include:†

  • Public health nurse manager or director
  • Outpatient clinic manager
  • Director of school nursing
  • Community center health coordinator
  • Director of disaster management and preparedness programs
  • Director of health education programs
  • Manager of maternal and infant public health nurse programs

How Do You Become a Public Health Nurse?

Many who find a public health nursing job start by earning their MSN degree. No matter where you are in your current career or how busy your life is, you can start the same way. Thanks to online MSN programs, you can now attend nursing school without having to drive to a brick-and-mortar institution or attend classes at specific times. That’s because online learning gives you the convenience you need to complete a master’s degree in nursing from home on a schedule designed for those working full time.

Through a top online university, you can even enroll in a master’s in nursing program with a public health nursing specialization. This MSN program can help you gain the in-depth knowledge you need to excel in public health nursing. Plus, if you’re already an RN or have an associate degree in nursing, you have the option of an accelerated path that will allow you to earn both your bachelor’s and master’s. Simply choose the RN to BSN to MSN program.

Changing other people’s lives can begin by changing your career. If you want to make a real difference in your community, an online public health nursing program can put you on the right track.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Public Health Nursing program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2015–2016 Edition, Health Educators and Community Health Workers, on the Internet at

†Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of a degree program.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,