Public Health Nursing

Advanced public health nurses employ a holistic view of health and wellness. They examine how segments of society interact with a health system, assess how individuals function within that health care framework, and develop ways to improve care on a large scale. Public health nurse practitioners also focus on the preventative side of medicine; they campaign for disease screenings and administer immunizations to at-risk populations.

Advanced Public Health Nurse Career

An advanced public health nurse focuses on assessing and providing treatment to the community at large —working, for example, in health departments, health insurance companies, and home health agencies. Any entity that is interested in the health of a large population would be an ideal workplace for a public health nurse practitioner. A public health nurse’s duties can include writing grants, promoting health throughout a community (via disease screening and immunization), and determining policy. The position may also include aggregating information from different health science and social sciences to benefit an individual patient, family, or population.

Advanced Public Health Nurse Salary

The average advanced public health nurse practitioner earns $70,000 per year, depending on region and experience. With a variety of workplace options, though, salaries can vary greatly depending on venue.

Advanced Public Health Nurse Practitioner Education

Eligible registered nurses (RNs) specifically interested in a career as a public health nurse may enroll in any one of the advanced public health nurse education programs offered in the United States. Graduates of these nurse education programs are taught how to integrate community issues and clinical health practices into treatment plans and work with a team of health professionals and community leaders to deliver optimal care to the public on a local or global scale. Advanced public health nurses may be employed by community clinics, schools, hospice care centers, wellness centers, or as community or global public health authorities.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) administers the exam to become a board-certified advanced public health nurse to RNs who have successfully completed an accredited advanced public health nurse education program. Basic eligibility requirements to sit for the exam include valid RN licensure in the United States or an equivalent international license, completion of an appropriate nursing education program which includes an undergraduate degree in nursing and a graduate degree in community health or public health, and at least 500 faculty-supervised hours in a public health or community health role. The ANCC also specifies that eligible candidates must complete separate courses in advanced pharmacology, advanced physiology and advanced health assessment.

Curriculum and Core Classes

Choosing an advanced public health nurse education program will depend on the applicant’s location and specific career interests. The ANCC recognizes both public health and community health graduate degree programs, so candidates may consider both options for the best fit. Students may also complete a graduate level clinical nurse specialist program in preparation for the ANCC exam, which awards the PHCNS-BC (Public/Community Health Clinical Nurse Specialist-Board Certified) credential instead of the APHN-BC (Advanced Public Health Nurse-Board Certified) credential.

At a minimum, curricula for all advanced public health nurse education programs will include separate courses in advanced health assessment, physiology and pharmacology, and at least 500 hours of clinical time to satisfy the ANCC eligibility requirements for the APHN-BC certification. Students enrolled in advanced public health nurse education programs can also expect to study community and ethical issues, environmental health, leadership education, health policies and planning, research fundamentals, statistics, economics and epidemiology.

In most advanced public health nurse education programs, clinical experiences are arranged on a student-by-student basis upon discussion with an advisor, and may include a combination of internships and residencies. Clinical hours for advanced public health nurse education programs can be tailored toward public health issues on a global or community level, depending on a student’s career goals.

Program Length

Students who enroll in advanced public health nurse education programs should be prepared to spend two years taking classes on a full-time basis, or may find a program that offers a part-time curriculum for working RNs. An additional year or two may be necessary for completion for nurses who choose a part-time path. RNs who already hold a graduate degree may take a shorter track to graduation, depending on the graduate program and work experience.

Advanced Public Health Nurse Certification

American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC)
Type of Certification: Advanced Public Health Nurse – Board Certified (APHN-BC)
Eligibility Requirements: A current active registered nurse license and either:

  • A graduate degree in public or community health nursing; or
  • A bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing and a Master’s in Public Health; or
  • A graduate degree in nursing or a graduate degree in a related field with a Bachelor’s in Nursing, plus 2,000 practice hours of advanced public/community health nursing withing the last three years.

Certification Process: Apply online or by mail with the paper initial certification application. Six weeks after submitting an application, candidates will receive either an Eligibility Notice, or a letter requesting more information. An Eligibility Notice gives applicants 90 days to schedule and take their exam.
Fees: $395 for non-members of American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association -Public Health Nursing Section or National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists
Renewal Process: Certification must be renewed every five years, either online on by mail with the paper renewal application.

State Nursing Certification Information