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Educate the World: Using a Degree in Nursing to Increase Public Awareness

Nursing is an honorable, well-respected profession. All nurses share a common goal to help improve the lives of others, sometimes by saving their lives. While many nurses care for patients who are admitted into a healthcare facility, some choose to use their nursing degree to increase public awareness about disease treatment and prevention. Community and public health nurses care for entire communities in a variety of settings. Nursing specializations geared toward public health nursing are a great choice for those who wish to educate and treat the public on a larger scale.

Public Health Nursing

Public health nurses focus on the well-being of the communities that they serve. They are registered nurses with special training in the area of community health and disease prevention. They treat patients, but they also educate the community on health issues and create intervention plans to correct or prevent health and safety concerns. Public health nurses provide a wide variety of services to the community. The nurses track health trends in the community and look for risk factors. Underserved communities need public health nurses to advocate for the improvement of healthcare services. Health education campaigns are created and carried out by public health nurses. These nurses investigate outbreaks of infectious disease and organize disease prevention activities like immunizations and screenings. Public health nurses can work with at-risk populations, educating them on preventing illnesses ranging from the common cold and obesity to HIV/AIDS. These nurses also help the community in preparing for and responding to disasters.

Specialized training is required to become a certified public health nurse, but the first step is to complete an accredited nursing program and become a registered nurse. According to Johnson & Johnson's Discover Nursing, 500 hours of public health nursing experience is necessary before becoming certified as a public health nurse. Certification in this specialization is voluntary, not required. Though it is not necessary to earn a master's degree or higher, advanced nursing degree programs are available in the specialization of public health nursing.

Parish Nursing

Parish nursing is another specialization focused on public health. Parish nurses are registered nurses that care for their religious community. According to Johnson & Johnson, parish nurses believe in balancing body and mind to achieve well-being. These nurses must have a firm understanding of their religious faith in order to work in this specialization, as much of their job is centered around religion. Some of the duties of a parish nurse include educating members of the religious community on health matters, counseling, assessing the community’s needs, and providing referrals. Parish nurses focus on the entire person including spiritual and emotional parts as well as physical. They promote good health and disease prevention. Parish nursing jobs are available for all denominations and exist in rural, suburban, and urban settings throughout the United States and internationally. The parish nurse is part of a team including the pastoral staff and congregation members.

School Nursing

School nurses are another group of nurses focused on educating and caring for the public. These individuals are employed by elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities. While a large part of their job involves caring for sick or injured attendants, they are also responsible for health education and infectious disease prevention. Often, these individuals teach students about prevention of communicable diseases, including influenza and sexually transmitted diseases. They may also educate them about the dangers of smoking, birth control methods, and healthy eating. School nurses also decide when students should be sent home or to the hospital and conduct hearing and vision exams. Depending on the school, these individuals may also give vaccinations.

Nurses can be involved in public health without working in any of the mentioned specializations. Many parts of the world are in dire need of healthcare. Missions seek nurses and other professionals to join them in helping educate and administer services to people in impoverished countries. Be sure to thoroughly research missions before deciding to become involved with one so that you know exactly what will be asked of you. Missionary work is typically done on a volunteer basis, but it can be very rewarding.