Category Archives: Public health professionals

Sep 3 2014

Accepting the Challenge: What the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Can Teach Us About Public Health

Elizabeth Gross Cohn, PhD, RN, is director of the Center for Health Innovation at Adelphi University, an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing, and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar.


It only took 24 hours for the hospital unit where I work to complete the Ice Bucket Challenge. My colleagues and I were quick to dump ice water on our heads and publicly post a video of it to YouTube. Compare that to the speed at which we adapt other initiatives—even those that benefit our own health.

Why the difference? What is prompting people to action and, more importantly, what can RWJF learn from this campaign as it works to advance a Culture of Health?

In case you’ve been unplugged over the past several weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge started in golf and baseball but has spread virally. As of today, it has raised $100 million for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).  Participation begins when you are challenged on social media to—within 24 hours—publicly accept, acknowledge the challenger by name, pour ice water over your head in as dramatic a method as you can imagine or afford, challenge two or three others to participate, and post the results to YouTube.  This campaign has been embraced by the general public, celebrities, grandmothers, babies, and teams of teachers, firefighters, nurses, teachers and others.  

We public health professionals can learn some important lessons about delivering information and impelling action from this extraordinary cultural phenomenon. Here are five factors that seem most potent to me. Do you see others?

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Nov 21 2013

International Makeup of U.S. Health Care Workforce Brings Vitality, Challenges

Foreign-educated and foreign-born health professionals play a vital role in providing patient care in this country, but strategic shifts such as changes in immigration laws may be needed to stabilize the nation’s health workforce, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The two groups fill important gaps, particularly among primary care physicians, nurses in hospital settings, and other areas with worker shortages, according to findings published in the November issue of Health Affairs.

However, continuing to rely on foreign-educated and foreign-born health workers may reduce incentives for the nation to address problems such as the inadequate supply of primary care physicians. This, in turn, could lead to a less-stable U.S. health care workforce, researchers said.

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Sep 17 2013

“Something Must be Done!” A 20th Century Rallying Cry for the Future of Public Health Nursing

Pamela A. Kulbok, DNSc, RN, PHCNS-BC, FAAN, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow. She is the Theresa A. Thomas Professor of Nursing and a professor of public health sciences at the University of Virginia, chair of the Department of Family, Community, and Mental Health Systems, and coordinator of the public health nursing leadership track of the master’s in nursing program.


With the recent release of second edition of the Public Health Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (American Nurses Association, 2013), now is a perfect time to reflect on the past and look toward the future of public health nursing (PHN). Public health nurses have always focused on improving the health of populations through health promotion and disease prevention. Since the establishment of visiting nursing in Boston and the Henry Street Settlement in New York City in the late 1800s, public health nurses have worked with families and communities in schools and homes, with immigrant populations in industrialized cities, and with rural communities to address challenging social conditions and to promote the health of the public.

It was evident with the founding of the National Organization of Public Health Nurses in 1912 that “something must be done” to prepare nurses with a broader education and emphasis on social conditions and prevention. Today, more than ever before, when health care in the United States is shifting its emphasis from an illness care system to one focused on health promotion and prevention, we need public health nurse generalists and advance practice public health nurses prepared to lead health care reform. 

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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 17 2013

Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge: The July 2013 Issue

Have you signed up to receive Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge? The monthly Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) e-newsletter will keep you up to date on the work of RWJF’s nursing programs, and the latest news, research, and trends relating to academic progression, leadership, and other critically important nursing issues. These are some of the stories in the July issue:

Public Health Nurses Satisfied With Their Jobs, In High Demand
“It was so fulfilling to be seen as that kind of community resource and be able to have an impact on the lives of so many people at once,” RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program alumna Joy Reed, EdD, RN, FAAN, president of the Association of Public Health Nurses, says of her first job with a local health department. A report from RWJF finds that public health nurses are satisfied with their jobs and feel they are making a difference in their communities, but they have concerns about job stability, compensation, and career growth in light of budget-tightening at many state and local health departments.

Nurse Historian Helps Build “Nest” for Nurse Scholars
A nurse, a nurse educator, a historian of nursing, and a nurse administrator at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Julie Fairman, PhD, RN, FAAN, is now adding another title to her lengthy resume: co-director of the Future of Nursing Scholars program, a new $20 million initiative launched by the RWJF that will support some of the best and brightest nurse scholars as they pursue research-focused doctorates in nursing.

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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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Apr 2 2013

Public Health Nurses Bringing Care to Libraries

Six libraries in downtown Tucson, Arizona, have some unexpected new employees: public health nurses. In what many believe to be a first-of-its-kind program, Pima County libraries teamed up with the county Health Department to start a jointly-funded “library nurse program.”

Libraries across the country often serve patrons living without shelter, health insurance, medical care or computer access, the Arizona Daily Star reports. As the need for health care and social services has grown in recent years due to a faltering economy and high unemployment, leaders in Pima County were inspired to provide more than just books to their patrons.

Now, five Pima County public health nurses divide the equivalent of one full-time public health nurse position among themselves, working weekdays at six local libraries. The nurses wear stethoscopes so they can be easily identified, but mostly provide health education and referrals to other health care resources in the area rather than actual medical care.

In addition to helping patrons get the health information they need, the program has also reduced the number of 911 calls from the libraries, “partly because nurses trained library staff to recognize when behavioral issues are escalating and to intervene appropriately,” reports.

“If I weren’t here, I think a lot of these individuals would fall through the cracks,” Daniel Lopez, one of the “library nurses” told “I can open doors for them and they can walk on through. Overall, I think it makes for a healthier Pima County.”

Read more about the library nurse program from the Arizona Daily Star,, and the Today Show.

Oct 29 2012

On Your Mark... Get Set... APHA!

Melody S. Goodman, PhD, is a grantee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections program (2007), and an assistant professor at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. This post is the first in a series in which RWJF scholars, fellows and alumni who are attending the American Public Health Association annual meeting reflect on the experience.


On your mark…. get set…. APHA!  Yes it is that time of year again for the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting & exposition.  Are you ready for all things public health?! 

APHA is my favorite conference to attend because it fulfills all of my public health senses.  I am a biostatistician interested in health disparities doing community-based participatory research (yes you read that correctly).  APHA is the one conference that speaks to all my research interests in one place.  There is no other conference that allows me to go to theta beta land with my statistics friends in the Applied Public Health Statistics Section and then discuss developing community-academic partnerships with both community and academic colleagues in the Community-Based Public Health Caucus (CBPHC).  Last year I served as the academic program planner for the CBPHC and this year I am section council of the Statistics section.

Some people say they don’t like APHA because it is too big but the New Yorker in me loves every moment of it.  I always arrive at the conference early and grab that phonebook-like program and attack it with a highlighter and sticky tabs the way only a true nerd could.  I spend an hour or so planning my life over the next few days; noting when and where I am presenting, where my colleagues and students are presenting and finding other scientific sessions I am interested in attending. Then I take a walk around the convention center locating the rooms where I will be presenting.  This makes life easier when over 10,000 people are walking though hallways, many of them lost; I don’t have to be one of them.

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