Category Archives: Public Health Nursing

Aug 2 2013

Are You Considering a Career in Public Health Nursing?

Marni Storey, BSN, MS, is interim director of Clark County Public Health in Vancouver, Washington, chair-elect of the Washington State Association of Local Public Health Officials, and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow (2013-2016).

I am often asked if I recommend public health nursing as a career option. My enthusiastic answer is ABSOLUTELY! I have been a public health nurse for more than 25 years and am one of a very few Americans who wakes up every day believing I have the best job in the world. There are many reasons I enjoy this profession, but three important pillars of public health nursing have kept me engaged for more than 25 years, and will keep me enthusiastic for many years to come.

The first pillar is that public health nursing services—including nursing assessment, intervention, and evaluation—are focused on a population, not on individuals. Whether you are interested in women, children, ethnic or cultural groups, or if you are interested in conditions such as HIV/AIDS, communicable diseases or obesity, the strategies used by public health nurses affect entire communities. While challenging, this population focus is also rewarding because, as a public health nurse, you are developing an understanding of an entire group of people or community in order to effectively carry out your nursing duties. This is very different from the individual relationships you develop in other nursing fields. Also rewarding is the chance to witness community transformation as a result of the collective impact of communities working together.

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Jul 26 2013

One Public Health Nurse’s Full Circle Journey

Cassandra Standifer, BSN, PHN-NFP, is a public health nurse working in the Nurse Family Partnership program in Renton.

Photo credit: D.K. de’Jesus

When I think about public health, I don’t think only of my nursing practice. I think about where I came from and how I got here. When I sit with my clients I can see in their situations my own mother, my aunt, my cousins and myself.

I work with first-time teen moms in a program called the Nurse Family Partnership.  Today I met my client, Sarah*, at her transitional housing. As I sat outside waiting for her, I thought back to 1990 when I was seven years old and living with my mother and sister in transitional housing. My mother was addicted to cocaine and attempting recovery—again. Transitional housing was an improvement from the hotel we had been living in, but I was well aware, even then, that there had to be something better out there than this halfway house.

During our home visit we chatted about Sarah’s daughter.  She exclaimed, “She has eight teeth on the bottom and eight teeth on the top, no cavities!”

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Jul 24 2013

Helping One Person at a Time

Anneleen Severynen, RN, MN, PHN, is a public health nurse working on the South King County Mobile Medical Unit for Public Health Seattle and King County in Washington State.

I work as a public health nurse on King County’s mobile medical unit, traveling south of Seattle in a van, providing for the health care needs of homeless individuals.  I perform many “nursing” tasks in my job – taking blood pressures, getting health histories, dressing wounds.  But my most important nursing skill is my ability to listen.

This morning I met Charlie.  Charlie is a 60-year-old Native American man who reported that he began drinking at age 12, while being passed around to various foster families.

At 17, he went to Vietnam to get away from abuse and neglect, only to be traumatized further by the war.

He called himself a “lost cause” and said he would probably never stop drinking, and knows that he “will die soon.”  As I sat silently, I listened to him grieve the loss of his culture and detail the many kinds of discrimination he has suffered. Though he spoke with the slurred speech of a chronic alcoholic, his eloquence moved me. I noticed tears in his eyes as he described a few happy childhood memories with his father—memories not quite lost to him.

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Jul 22 2013

The Challenge to Grow the Number of Public Health Nurses

Lisa Campbell, DNP, RN, APHN-BC, is an associate professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and director of Population Health Consultants, LLC in Victoria, Texas—a company that works to build human capital to improve population health. She serves as newsletter co-editor for the American Public Health Association, Public Health Nursing Section.

With 36 percent of the public health nursing workforce reporting age 56 or older, according to the new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, strategic planning by state and local health departments must include creative strategies to recruit. In order to increase the numbers of nurses in public health, hiring practices will require a paradigm shift. Public health nurses new to the field bring a unique perspective that will assist in bridging the gap between public and private partnerships. Furthermore, public health is charged with adaptive practice innovations to implement programs outlined in the Affordable Care Act. To illustrate this point, I would like to share my public health nursing journey.

I decided to become a public health nurse after being a nurse practitioner for more than 25 years. When I embarked on this journey, I had no idea where it would take me.

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Jul 11 2013

Public Health Nurses: Positioned to Lead Health System Transformation

Shirley Orr, MHS, APRN, NEA-BC, is a public health consultant and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program (2009–2012).

Shirley Orr

According to President Hoover’s Research Committee on Social Trends, public health nurses numbered just 1,413 in 1909. That number skyrocketed to 15,865 by 1931. In the midst of the Great Depression, the President’s committee articulated the value of public health nursing to the nation by declaring that, “. . . the importance of the public health nurse cannot be overestimated.” In that difficult time, those familiar with the work of public health nurses saw great value in their commitment to social and humanitarian causes, evident through outreach to populations in greatest need of health improvement.

The Enumeration and Characterization of the Public Health Nurse Workforce report, just released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), tells us that approximately 34,500 nurses currently practice in local and state governmental health departments, making public health nurses one of the largest segments of the public health workforce. While today’s public health nurses maintain the commitment to social and humanitarian causes evident in the 1930s, public health nursing practice has changed significantly in the ensuing decades. The major trends and shifts we see in the public health system today are key factors influencing the ongoing evolution of contemporary public health nursing practice. For today’s public health nurses, the challenge of the future is systemic change.

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Jun 28 2013

Expert Discusses New Data on America’s Public Health Nursing Workforce

A report funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and produced by the University of Michigan Center of Excellence in Public Health Workforce Studies is the first comprehensive assessment of the size, composition, educational background experience, retirement intention, job function and job satisfaction of nurses who work for state and local health departments.

Paul Kuehnert, MS, RN, CPNP, team director of Public Health at RWJF, and an alumnus of the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program, discusses the report’s findings.

Jun 27 2013

Love My Job … But Not My Salary: A Snapshot of America’s Public Health Nurses

A report released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) finds the nation’s public health nurses report very high levels of job satisfaction and feel they are making a difference in their communities. But they also report concerns about job stability, compensation, and lack of opportunities for promotion in light of budget-tightening at many state and local health departments.

The findings come from the new report, Enumeration and Characterization of the Public Health Nurse Workforce: Findings of the 2012 Public Health Nurse Workforce Surveys. It was produced by the University of Michigan Center of Excellence in Public Health Workforce Studies and funded by RWJF. It is the first comprehensive assessment of the size, composition, educational background, experience, retirement intention, job function, and job satisfaction of nurses who work for state and local health departments.

The new study also finds that more than two in five public health departments report having “a great deal of difficulty” hiring nurses, and nearly as many state and local health departments report having insufficient resources to fill vacant nurse positions.

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