Enumeration and Characterization of the Public Health Nurse Workforce

Public health nurses comprise the largest occupational group of public health workers and play a central role in the delivery of essential public health services to communities. Despite the importance of the work of nurses in assuring population health, little is known about the size, composition, and educational/training background of the public health nurse workforce.

The University of Michigan Center of Excellence in Public Health Workforce Studies conducted a national survey of public health nurses at the organizational-level and individual-level to collect information on workforce size, educational background, job titles, program areas, job functions, recruitment, retention and retirement intention of public health nurses working in state and local health departments.

Select Findings:

  • There is significant need to strengthen the education and training of public health nurses.
  • Providing clinical services is part of the work done by RNs in state and local health departments, but these nurses assume a wide variety of roles.
  • The national public health nurse workforce in state and local health departments is not as racially and ethnically diverse as the country’s population. Further, few minority public health nurses serve in leadership positions.
  • The public health nurse workforce is aging; however, most RNs do not intend to retire within the next five years.
  • Public health nurses report high levels of job satisfaction, despite reporting high levels of dissatisfaction with salary compensation.