Community Health Nurse Career Overview

Community Health Nurse Career Overview

Community Health Nurse Career OverviewCommunity health nurses play a vital role in providing comprehensive healthcare services outside the hospital environment. This rewarding profession allows nurses to work directly with the community, raising awareness and preventing the spread of preventable diseases and illnesses. Let’s explore the responsibilities of these professionals and the educational path to becoming a community health nurse.

Time Required to Pursue This Career
Becoming a community health nurse typically takes 4-6 years.

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Job Outlook
The job outlook for community health nurses is favorable, with a projected 7% growth from 2019 to 2029, in line with the demand for all registered nurses.

Earnings Potential
Community health nurse salaries vary based on factors like education, experience, location, and work setting. On average, they earn between $39,000 and $84,000 annually, according to PayScale.

What Does a Community Health Nurse Do?

Community health nurses need to be adaptable as they work in diverse communities outside traditional healthcare facilities. Their roles often involve providing healthcare services in unconventional settings. They may conduct blood pressure tests in shopping malls, offer emergency planning in churches, or distribute sex education materials on college campuses. Key responsibilities of community health nurses include:

Primary Responsibilities:

– Community advocacy and organization.
– Conducting assessments, interventions, and evaluations.
– Referring individuals to appropriate agencies.
– Promoting health through activities like nutrition, wellness, and disease prevention.
– Conducting health screenings.
– Providing education on family planning.

Is a Public Health Degree Worth it?

Skills Acquired:

– Empathy.
– Effective communication.
– Clinical skills.
– Community advocacy.
– Program organization.
– Case management skills.
– Critical thinking.
– Adaptability.

Where Do Community Health Nurses Work?

Community health nurses are particularly valuable in communities with limited access to medical resources. They often find employment in the following settings:

Community Health Clinics:

– Offering immunizations.
– Providing family planning counseling.
– Initiating health promotion campaigns.

Homeless Shelters:

– Focusing on preventive care through screenings and assessments.
– Assisting individuals in accessing social services.

Home Care:

– Aiding individuals with physical or mental disabilities in daily care.
– Educating family members on caregiving.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Pursuing a Career as a Community Health Nurse


– Making a positive impact on vulnerable communities.
– Collaborative nursing care that involves working closely with clients in non-hospital settings.
– Diverse work environments.
– More convenient work schedules with limited weekend or holiday hours.
– Providing holistic and personalized care.
– Building strong partnerships between nurses, clients, and community populations.


– Limited opportunities for consultation with other healthcare professionals.
– Frequent adaptation to different lifestyles, settings, and cultures.
– Commuting to different communities.
– Longer timeframes required to see improvements on a community-wide scale.

Steps to Become a Community Health Nurse

1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Select an educational program that aligns with your career goals. Some community-oriented roles working with larger populations may require a graduate degree.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain Registered Nurse (RN) licensure. After completing your nursing degree, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This exam assesses your nursing knowledge and skills and is required for state licensure.

3. Gain the necessary nursing experience. Becoming a community health nurse typically demands around 1-2 years of clinical experience after obtaining your degree and RN licensure.

4. Consider obtaining certification in community health nursing. While not mandatory, certification can enhance your job prospects. Once certified, you’ll need to maintain your certification by completing continuing education credits, and it can be renewed every five years.

Certification Options for Community Health Nurses

1. Certified Community Public Health Nurse (CCPHN):

Offered by the American Public Health Association, this certification focuses on community and public health nursing. Candidates need to hold an RN license and meet specific educational and experience requirements.

2. Certified in Public Health (CPH):

The National Board of Public Health Examiners provides this certification, which covers various aspects of public health. To be eligible, candidates must possess an RN license and complete a Master’s or higher degree in public health or related fields.

3. Public Health Nurse-Board Certified (PHN-BC):

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers this certification. Requirements include holding an RN license, completing a baccalaureate or higher degree in nursing, and gaining at least two years of full-time experience as an RN.

How Much Do Community Health Nurses Make?

Salaries for community health nurses vary widely based on factors such as education, experience, work setting, and geographical location. On average, community health nurses earn between $39,000 and $84,000 annually, according to PayScale data.

The national shortage of nurses, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to drive a 7% job growth rate for community health nurses through 2029. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the addition of 221,900 RN positions between 2019 and 2029, indicating a strong demand for nurses. On a global scale, community health workers, including nurses, are needed, especially in poorer countries heavily affected by the pandemic, according to the British Medical Journal Global Health.

Community health worker programs specifically require nurses trained in preventing and controlling infectious diseases to deliver home-based care to low-income individuals impacted by COVID-19, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Difference Between Community Nursing and Hospital Nursing

Community nursing and hospital nursing differ in several aspects, including work-life balance and patient interactions. Here are some key distinctions:

Community Nursing:

– Community nurses provide healthcare services in clients’ personal settings, allowing for more client input.
– Their approach focuses on holistic nursing with an emphasis on health education.
– Community nurses typically enjoy a more balanced work-life schedule.
– The nature of their work often fosters more collaborative relationships with clients.

Hospital Nursing:

– Hospital nurses may have less collaborative patient interactions, with limited client input.
– They can easily consult with other healthcare professionals within the hospital setting.
– Hospitals tend to emphasize individual achievements among staff members more than community health settings.
– Hospital nursing can be more emotionally taxing compared to community health nursing, potentially leading to higher burnout rates.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take to become a community health nurse?

– Becoming a community health nurse usually takes 4-6 years. Candidates need a minimum of two years to earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or four years for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Some employers prefer community health nurses with 1-2 years of nursing experience.

2. Can community health nurses prescribe medication?

– No, community health nurses cannot prescribe medication. To do so, nurses would need a nurse practitioner license. In some states, nurse practitioners can prescribe medication under the direction of a physician.

3. What is the difference between a community health nurse and a public health nurse?

– Both community health nurses and public health nurses focus on educating the public to promote health and wellness. While they may collaborate on health education programs, public health nurses may have a more direct role in working with policymakers, whereas community health nurses typically implement policies at the community level to address health disparities.

4. What is the role of the community health nurse?

– The primary role of community health nurses is to address healthcare disparities. They work to create educational campaigns and community health programs, such as mass immunizations. Their responsibilities also include distributing healthcare materials, such as masks, to the community.

Resources for Community Health Nurses

1. Association of Community Health Nursing Educators (ACHNE):

Founded in 1978, ACHNE promotes community and public health nursing education and research. Members gain access to networking opportunities and can find lectures and online events through ACHNE’s Annual Institute, along with a list of public health nurse educational programs.

2. Association of Public Health Nurses (APHN):

The APHN, originally established in 1935 as the Association of State and Territorial Directors of Nursing, serves approximately 780 members. Members can access ongoing education and other professional resources, and APHN offers a network for public health nurses to connect.

3. International Home Care Nurses Organization (IHCNO):

Founded in 2009, IHCNO aims to provide an international platform for home care nurses. Joining this organization allows you to network with home care nurses from around the world and access research scholarship grants.

4. Home Healthcare Now:

The Home Healthcare Now journal delivers timely and relevant news and information for home healthcare and hospice professionals. Readers can also find continuing education opportunities through its partnership with‘s CEConnection, helping meet certification and license renewal requirements.

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