Nursing Career Path: Community Health Nurse

Nursing Career Path: Community Health Nurse

Many people associate nurses with facilities where we go to get treatments for health problems and concerns. But there are many types of nurses who work in a more preventative mindset, focusing on how to better improve the lives of people in their communities before health problems show up.

One particular specialty of nursing that does this is community health nursing. If working to better a community’s overall health and wellbeing is a field that interests you, here’s what you should know about this type of nursing. 

What Is a Community Health Nurse?

Community health nurses, also known as public health nurses, work within communities in a variety of capacities. There are many health-related issues that plague communities, ranging from common illnesses to a lack of resources that can help people live healthier, better lives. 

This type of nursing is very important for many communities, as there are many people who are unable to access many common resources for managing their health, like insurance, transportation, or the knowledge of what they need. 

There are also many health concerns that are best prevented through education and programs within the community, like sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, substance abuse, and teen pregnancies. 

What Do They Do?

These types of nurses focus on improving the health of specific communities and the individuals that are a part of them. They might work mostly on a person-to-person basis, or they might be involved with policy-making, education, and outreach. 

Nurses in this fieldwork to understand the needs and requirements of the community they work in. That includes being aware of and sensitive to issues related to its cultural, religious, environmental, and socioeconomic influences as well as understanding the resources available to people in the community and what they might be lacking.

Depending on the job, public health nurses might have any of the following roles and responsibilities:

  • Administer vaccinations
  • Distribute health information about relevant topics, like birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, and substance abuse
  • Engage in preventative patient care
  • Spread awareness about common diseases and how to prevent their spread
  • Direct at-risk populations to social services
  • Educate at workshops, conferences, and classes
  • Implement preventive and educational programs
  • Conduct research
  • Act as an advocate, such as for policy-making at local or federal levels
  • Treat patients directly via health exams.

Whatever your specific role ends up being, the main focus for community health nurses is on preventing illness and injuries in the community as well as improving the resources and wellbeing of the people who live there.

Where Do They Work?

As a community health nurse, you can find places to work in just about any geographical setting, whether a small town or a capital city. Facilities that often employ these types of nurses include the normal places you’d find nurses, like hospitals and clinics, as well as the following:

  • Health departments
  • Community health centers
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • School systems
  • Religious institutions
  • Government departments
  • Correctional facilities
  • Home health agencies

In smaller towns or remote regions where people are more spread out, a nurse might work more independently than they would at a larger clinic. They might work in an office setting or routinely travel to visit patients or attend conferences and seminars. 

If there’s a place involved with the prevention and maintenance of the health and wellbeing of people in the community, then you can often find public health nurses there. 

How Can You Become a Community Health Nurse?

To work in community health as a nurse, you’ll need to fulfill the minimum requirements to be a nurse. This means graduating from an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

At the minimum, this means you’ll have an Associate Degree of Nursing (ADN) as well as a registered nurse license in order to start working in this specialty field.

But it’s becoming increasingly more common that employers prefer to hire nurses who have a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) degree, which will take an extra year or two to complete. More than half the positions for community health nurses will want you to have a BSN at the least.

If you want to continue further in your career as a community health nurse and open more autonomy as well as job opportunities, then you’ll want to eventually look at getting a master’s degree in a related field, like public health, or in a nurse practitioner program. 

Why Become a Community Health Nurse?

Community health nursing understands that having good health and being able to access the resources needed to maintain their good health is a right that all people should be able to enjoy, regardless of where they are geographically or socioeconomically.

Many people lack the resources and education needed to make good health choices for themselves, and that can greatly impact a community in how they work, live, and interact with the people around them. 

Michelle Paul

Michelle Paul is an RN Content Specialist at Clipboard Health. She has worked with a variety of patient demographics, ranging from young adults in foreign countries, to elderly residents in skilled nursing facilities, to healthy blood donors in her community. Her experience in content creation gives her a unique perspective on communication within the healthcare field.

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