The intent of this position statement is to underscore the critical importance of public health nurses to the health of New Yorkers and to guide the development of relevant public policy.
It is the position of the New York State Nurses Association that:
The American Public Health Association/ Public Health Nursing Section (2003) defines public health nursing as “the practice of promoting and protecting the health of populations using knowledge from nursing, social, and public health sciences” (Quad Council, 2007). This definition is reinforced in the American Nurses Association Public Health Nursing: Scope & Standards of Practice (2007).
The current federal system requires disaster and bioterrorism preparedness and management at the local, state and federal levels which has further heightened the need for a robust public health nursing workforce (ANA, 2007). Public health nurses provide leadership and education, to safeguard the health of the community during a public health emergency (Columbia University, 2001).
Public health nurses practice in a variety of settings in the community at large. They may provide both direct and indirect care, where ever people live, work and/or play. They practice on the local, state and federal level. Regardless of setting, public health nursing practice includes the prevention of illness, injury and disability and the protection and promotion of wellness (ANA, 2007).
In New York State, the baccalaureate degree in nursing is required to practice public health nursing. Current law limits the use of the title Public Health Nurse to those with at least a baccalaureate degree in nursing (10NYCRR11.41). This does not preclude other registered nurses who hold a baccalaureate degree from practicing in such settings, according to the nurse practice act.
Two levels of public health nursing practice are recognized by the American Nurses Association (2007). These are the generalist who is prepared at the baccalaureate level of education, and the specialist who is prepared at the graduate level (ANA, 2007; ACHNE, 2009). Both levels of nursing education curricula are guided by the essentials for baccalaureate nursing education and masters level education. These essentials address such things as population focused health, health promotion, protection and prevention, disaster preparedness and management, and public policy development (AACN, 2008; AACN 2011).
According to HRSA (2005), recruiting public health nurses is especially difficult in rural communities. These difficulties stem primarily from budgetary constraints, an increasing shortage of registered professional nurses, low salaries, and lengthy and prohibitive hiring practices. Data suggest the current nursing shortage will continue to grow in all specialties, including public health nursing (AACN 2011; ANA, 2007).
The availability and ability of public health nurses to “promote and protect” the public’s health is currently hindered, which ultimately jeopardizes the public’s health.
The public’s health is at great risk without implementing the following:
Approved by the Board of Directors on January, 1997; June 8, 2006; and August 25, 2011.
Reviewed and revised by the Expanded Council on Nursing Practice on March 10, 2006.
Reviewed and revised by the Public Health PFG and the Council on Nursing Practice June 17, 2011.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2008). Essentials of baccalaureate education for professional nursing practice. Retrieved from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/education/pdf/BaccEssentials08.pdf
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2011) Essentials of master’s education for advanced practice nursing. Retrieved from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Education/pdf/Master'sEssentials11.pdf
American Nurses Association. (2007). Public health nursing: Scope & standards of practice. Maryland: Basic Books.org
Association of Community Health Nurse Educators. (2009).Essentials of baccalaureate nursing education for entry level to public health nursing. Retrieved from http://www.achne.org/files/EssentialsOfBaccalaureate_Fall_2009.pdf
Columbia University School of Nursing. (2001). Core public health worker competencies for emergency preparedness and response. Retrieved from http://www.phf.org/resourcestools/Documents/emergencypreparednesscorecompetencies_Columbia_University.pdf
HRSA. (2005). Public health workforce study. Maryland: Bureau of Health Professions.
New York State Qualifications of Public Health Personnel. (2008). Public health nurse I. Entry level qualifications. Title 10, Part 11 (10NYCRR11.41).
Quad Council of Public Health Nursing Organizations. (2007). The public health nursing shortage: A threat to the public’s health. Retrieved from http://www.astdn.org/downloadablefiles/Final%20Nursing%20Shortage%20Paper.pdf
For more information on nursing practice, contact NYSNA's Education, Practice and Research Program at 518.782.9400, ext. 282 or by e-mail.