Community health nurses are an integral part of public health initiatives. The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines public health nursing as “the practice of promoting and protecting the health of populations using knowledge from nursing, social and public health sciences.”
Public health measures typically seek to safeguard the health of an entire population, usually through the promotion of healthy habits and preventive measures that stop or slow the spread of illness and disease. Community health nurses implement these public health standards and guidelines by focusing on smaller, more specific groups within their unique geographic locations. By tailoring interventions, educational campaigns and outreach to the needs of their local population, they create healthier, more dynamic communities.
What Do Community Health Nurses Do?
Community health nurses oversee the health and well-being of individuals and groups within their communities. They perform both clinical and nonclinical duties, but their primary responsibilities are:
- Administering vaccines
- Coordinating immunization clinics, blood donation drives and other outreach programs
- Providing educational information and handouts about relevant healthcare topics, including smoking, STDs, pregnancy, nutrition and disease prevention
- Treating superficial wounds and injuries
- Caring for individuals and families who live in remote areas
- Offering basic diagnostic services, such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring
- Identifying barriers to care and optimal health
- Developing interventions to bridge gaps in care or understanding
- Assessing the community’s needs
- Conducting research
- Tracking the health of populations over time
Community health nurses regularly work closely with members of the public. This frequent contact helps them assess the most pressing issues facing community members as well as “encourage lifestyle changes … and offer education on healthy living — particularly to the most vulnerable in society,” says the ANA.
Where Do Community Health Nurses Work?
Community health nurses work in healthcare facilities, like hospitals and outpatient clinics. In addition, they work for city, county and state government agencies and nonprofit organizations, like the Red Cross. Some nurses work in correctional facilities, where they conduct educational programs for inmates.
Community health nurses also occasionally travel. Rural and remote residents often experience more significant barriers to care, so community health nurses should be prepared to travel to the isolated areas within their communities.
How Do You Become a Community Health Nurse?
Entry-level community health nursing jobs require an Associate Degree in Nursing, but in order to advance or specialize one needs a bachelor’s degree. An online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, like the one offered at the University of Houston-Victoria (UHV), provides one of the most convenient pathways to achieve this. The program’s accelerated pacing means graduation is possible in as few as 12 months, and the flexible online format allows nurses to continue working while earning the degree.
For RNs interested in community health, UHV’s curriculum includes a Population Focused Community Health course. This course provides an overview of the roles that nurses assume in community health settings.
What Is the Job Outlook for Community Health Nursing?
Considering the pandemic and the worsening of existing healthcare inequities, community health nursing has received renewed attention along with additional public funding and support. As a result, nurses passionate about community-based healthcare will likely have abundant career opportunities as organizations expand their budgets and outreach programs responding to population health crises.
According to ZipRecruiter (September 2021), community health nurses earn an average annual salary of $67K, with top earners making more than $80K. Job outlook will probably mirror that of the general BSN-prepared nursing workforce, which will increase 9% through 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Community health nurses are vital to overall public health measures. They ensure the well-being of at-risk or marginalized individuals and groups, often by reducing the impact of social determinants of health. It is an excellent career opportunity for nurses looking to move away from bedside care and experience a more substantial and fulfilling mix of responsibilities.
Learn more about University of Houston-Victoria’s online RN to BSN program.