What is a Community Health Nurse?

August 30, 2017

Interested in the public health sector, or considering a career as a community health nurse? We’re shining a light on this important medical profession and explaining the role these nurses play within their communities.

What is a Community Health Nurse?

Tasked with helping their communities as a whole, community health nurses use their medical expertise to help prevent and treat contagious diseases and spread awareness about common public health issues.

These issues include everything from teen pregnancy, obesity and substance abuse to illnesses and diseases such as the flu or HIV. Community health nurses work in rural and urban areas alike and offer members of their community treatment and medical advice. These nurses work alongside other local medical professionals to better serve their neighborhoods and improve residents’ overall access to healthcare.

What Does a Community Health Nurse Do?

One of the most important roles of community health nurses is providing affordable medical care to those in need. This may include treating the common cold to educating community members on managing chronic conditions.

Additionally, community health nurses also place a great deal of emphasis on awareness and prevention efforts. These methods may center on handing out literature and fliers, or it may extend to distributing free health-related essentials that can counter common public health trends (i.e, giving out condoms to reduce the instances of STDs and unwanted pregnancies).

These prevention efforts also include administering vaccinations and immunizations to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

Some of the general issues community health nurses focus on include the following:

  • Obesity
  • Chronic diseases
  • Social and domestic violence
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Substance abuse

Ultimately, these nurses promote wellness, work to prevent health issues, directly and indirectly treat diseases and disorders, assist with rehabilitation efforts when needed, evaluate their community’s healthcare needs and conduct regular research into their current methods’ effectiveness.

Where Do Community Health Nurses Work?

Fittingly enough, community health nurses are oftentimes found in community health centers, where they can provide medical advice and treatment to those in need. Additionally, they can find employment in hospitals, clinics, and trauma centers as well as nonprofit organizations. Some community health nurses also fill roles in health-related government agencies and research centers.

These important healthcare professionals may even take their skills on the road as travel nurses, working in different cities and surrounding communities to spread awareness and provide more widespread awareness. Some even work in patients’ homes or within school systems and businesses. Others may be employed by emergency response teams.

What are the Benefits of Being a Community Health Nurse?

Community health nurses enjoy a wide range of benefits that are sure to appeal to nursing students and seasoned pros alike. Here are just a few:

  • Working with your community as a whole and educating the public on medical issues.
  • Helping people manage chronic conditions and working with people one-on-one.
  • Conducting research about your community’s health.
  • Connecting low-income people to the medical assistance they need and advocating for your community members.
  • Potentially traveling to surrounding areas to promote awareness and working with diverse populations.
  • Treating a wide range of medical conditions.
  • Making your community healthier and serving a greater good.

How do I Become a Community Health Nurse?

The first step toward beginning a career as a community health nurse is becoming a registered nurse (RN). Typically, you’ll need to obtain your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and then pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Nursing experience in a clinical setting can help prepare you for the health issues you’ll face working with the community, and it can yield insight into where your true passions lie.

Although not required, a Master’s Degree in community health or public health can also better prepare you for the field academically, while the Advanced Public Health Nurse exam that’s offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) can provide you with official certification in the field. In order to obtain your certification, you’ll need either your BSN or MSN degree and two years of nursing experience while holding a registered nursing license.

How Much are Community Health Nurses Paid?

The median annual salary for a community health nurse is $56,111. Public nurse salaries tend to range from $41,303 to $82,335, depending on the location and employer.

What is the Job Outlook for Community Nursing?

As with so many nursing professions, this field is expected to grow dramatically as life expectancy continues to increase. Funnily enough, this expanded lifespan is directly linked to the increase in public health efforts and community outreach.

What is the Difference Between Community Health and Public Health?

Oftentimes used interchangeably, community health and public health are very similar in their overall applications. Both focus on the intersection of prevention and treatment of community health conditions, so they certainly overlap.

One caveat is that community health nursing is generally considered its own category within the broader field of public health. Public health is a more broad approach to this line of work, whereas community health tends to focus on a singular community or geographical area.

Are you a community health nurse, or are you considering pursuing it as a career? Let us know your thoughts on this popular field in the comments section below!

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