how to become a public health nurse practitioner

What is a Public Health Nurse Practitioner?

Registered nurses who want to advance their careers with a master’s degree should consider the quickly growing and influential field of public health. While there is no specific certification for nurses to become public health nurse practitioners, with the right blend of health leadership education and experience, APRNs can impact their community or broader population groups as public health nurse practitioners. An online public health-focused master’s degree in nursing can advance any registered nurse to a nurse practitioner in as few as 20 months. APRN programs also typically include a 90-hour fieldwork capstone project, leading to increased job opportunities, a higher salary, and the chance to make a difference.


Learn more about earning your master’s degree in Public Health at Goodwin University!


A changing health landscape and public health nurses

Public health nurse practitioners are playing an increasingly important role in the healthcare field. In a petition to value community and public health nursing released by the National Academy of Medicine, a non-profit, non-government, independent, evidence-based health and science advisor, NAM advised that state and federal government agencies, healthcare and public health organizations, payers, and foundations, all must collaborate to address the social determinants of health and health equity. They argue for channeling significant investment into public health nursing and establishing a national public health nursing commission. Rising public health challenges cited by NOM include mental health illness among youth and healthcare inequities due to socio-economic barriers such as structural racism and poverty. COVID-19 not only uncovered these existing issues in healthcare but also exacerbated them. Public health nurses are the key to improving healthcare access for children in schools, and for turning the tide towards promoting health instead of treating illness, for healthier communities overall. Public health nurse practitioners may provide front-line service to patients and clients in a variety of environments, including hospitals, community centers, clinics, government agencies, and schools and universities.

What’s the difference between a public health nurse practitioner and other NPs?

Public health nurse practitioners demonstrate skills and knowledge specific to population health. This requires a degree program that includes education on the following  curriculum:

  •  Policy
  •  Healthcare quality
  •  Communications
  •  Politics
  •  Organization of healthcare
  •  Physical assessment
  •  Pathophysiology
  •  Theory
  •  Pharmacology

An MSN that covers these topics prepares registered nurses to provide clinical care, move into research, or become healthcare team leaders. A public health nurse practitioner might be involved in any stage of an initiative, from evaluating patients and identifying health risks and trends through research and data collection, to implementing partnerships with community organizations, like food banks, shelters, rehabilitation centers, and local non-profits and businesses. Public health nurse practitioners might use population data to gain funding and partners to support targeted healthcare campaigns that address a top public health concern in a community or population. For example, a smoking cessation program to combat cigarette use among veterans can help that population avoid heart disease and cancer. Education and resources for families to access more fresh vegetables and fruits can contribute to avoiding diabetes and obesity. The public health nurse practitioner’s population-specific focus differentiates them from family nurse practitioners, who assess individual health across the lifespan.

How do public health nurse practitioners facilitate change?

Public health nurse practitioners build community partnerships and address systemic problems facing communities that impact their health potential. Leading population health improvement also means addressing policies to increase equity and protections for the underserved. Why should nurses be convinced that their work with community populations will work? Nurses rank highest in ethics and honesty amongst all other professions surveyed by a Gallup poll. This is great news because it takes trust for any change to happen.

How can I become a public health nurse practitioner?

To become a public health nurse practitioner, you must have prior experience providing nursing care and possess a registered nurse license. This is your first step to obtaining a master’s degree in nursing, which you’ll need to advance in your career as a nurse practitioner.

Other MSN program requirements include:

  • Proof of bachelor’s degree completion in nursing, showing a GPA of 3.0 or above.
  • A personal statement of nursing career goals.
  • An interview with the program director.
  • A professional resume.
  • A complete graduate application form, an application fee, and proof of immunizations.

With these admission requirements, you’ll be on your way toward earning a spot in Goodwin University’s community and population-health-focused MSN program. If your path into nursing hasn’t been so straightforward, there’s no reason to worry. Goodwin University is well aware that there are many ways to arrive at nursing, and sometimes, the discovery that you love healthcare doesn’t arrive until after you’ve achieved your bachelor’s degree. Goodwin University solves this conundrum with the RN-to-MSN bridge program. This program is designed for RNs with a nursing license, but a bachelor’s degree in something other than nursing. With just five courses, you can make a bachelor’s degree in almost any subject work for you and your future in advanced nursing.

Learn more about how Goodwin University can help you reach your career goals of becoming a catalyst for healthcare change by getting in touch with us today. Request more information or call 800-889-3282 today!