A community health nurse has similar qualifications to a typical registered nurse, but this role involves much more preventative, community-centered activities than that of an RN. Rather than focusing on one-on-one patient care, a public health or community nurse works more with health research, community advising and the monitoring of health trends.
Trends and Goal Setting
A common preventative role of the community health nurse is to monitor local health trends and establish goals and priorities for health maintenance and prevention. If studies and information from the Centers for Disease Control indicate a particular strand of flu is going to become problematic, the community nurse looks at strategies to inform the public and prevent a local outbreak. This duty correlates with the general objective of community nursing – to serve the needs of the greater population.
Health advocacy is often a passion as well as a responsibility for a public health nurse. This responsibility includes communicating with local, state and federal politicians and community leaders about the health conditions and needs of the local community, state or public in general. As of 2013, for instance, many nurses advocate for better health care and benefits for children diagnosed with Autism. Some community nurses also write books, reports and articles and develop brochures to inform and promote particularly important health causes.
Health Clinics and Screenings
One of the more direct ways a community nurse serves the public is through health education and communication programs. This role includes media-driven campaigns to inform and educate the community on pressing health issues. Community nurses also work in immunization and health screening clinics and other local care programs that serve the general public. Identifying and targeting specific segments of the at-risk population is important as well. For example, pregnant mothers are a common target of community nurses for flu shots.
Education and Training
A community nurse must first complete the requirements to become a registered nurse or RN. While you can become a nurse with certification training, most community nurses need to have at least an associate's, if not a bachelor's, degree in nursing. You must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination to become a licensed nurse. Working in a public health agency or a hospice setting early in your nursing career is an effective way to eventually move into community nursing.