How Do I Become a Public Health Nurse?

Public Health NurseDo you want to become a public health nurse? If you are interested in helping a community of individuals live healthier lives, public nursing could be the field for you. As a public nurse, you will provide community-based care to the public in a variety of ways. You may work with parents who would like to influence school administrators to assess health policies or with local planning commissions to discuss why open spaces are important for healthy living. Regardless of what your day as a public nurse looks like, there is no denying how rewarding it can be to carry the title. If you want to have a profound impact on the lives of people in a specific community, here are the steps to take to enter the sector of public health:

Enroll in a Associate or Bachelor of Nursing Program

The path you must follow to become a public nurse is very similar to the path you take to become a Registered Nurse working in a private medical practice. For starters, you must enroll in a nursing degree program to satisfy the formal degree requirements that are in place to earn your state licensure. While some states will allow graduates of an A.S. program to apply for license, the best route to take would be to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Once you earn this, you are one step closer to becoming a licensed Registered Nurse.

Take the National Council Licensure Examination

To get licensed as an RN, all nurses must take the National Council Licensure Examination, often referred to as the NCLEX. To sit for this exam, you must complete the classroom study and clinical study hours that are required by the state in which you intend to practice. To register to take the NCLEX test, you must register through the National Council of the State Boards of  Nursing and pay the registration fee. After you pay this fee, you will submit your board eligibility letter and wait to receive what is called an Authorization to Test. You will only receive the authorization if you are eligible. This is why it is crucial to verify the requirements through your State Board of Nursing before you apply.

Related Resource: Online Nursing Degrees

Gaining Work Experience to Test for Certification

Once you become a Registered Nurse, the next step is working in the field. If you would like to specialize in public health, it is best to gain hands-on experience. You will be required to gain 500 hours of professional Public Health experience before you can apply to become certified in public health. To earn this certification, you must take another voluntary exam where you will be tested on the sub-discipline. It may be in your best interest to take extra courses in community and public health before taking your certification exam.

According to the American Public Health Association, there is currently a critical public health nursing shortage. With increasing demands on public health coming to light and a growing population of aging individuals, there has never been a greater need for public health nurses who are qualified to focus on the health of populations. As demand increases, the gap will only continue to widen. If you would like to enter the field, now is the time to become a public health nurse and make a difference.