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Public Health Nurse Recruitment Barriers Detailed

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, July 1, 2013

While public health nurses report high levels of job satisfaction, they are "extremely unsatisfied" with their salaries, lack education and training resources, and don't see opportunities to grow into leadership roles, survey data shows.

healthcare worker

>>>Slideshow: Public Health Nurses RWJF Report

Hospitals and health systems are not the only organizations grappling with the challenge of attracting and keeping nurses on staff. Public health departments are also struggling to fill vacant jobs.

Nurses are critically important to public and population health efforts, making up 24% of that workforce and providing much-needed clinic-based care and disease prevention services to individuals in roughly half of all state and local health departments.

But the public health sector's efforts to recruit and retain registered nurses have been hobbled by a number of factors. A report [PDF] , released last week by the University of Michigan Center of Excellence in Public Health Workforce and funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, quantifies the problem and its causes.  

Among the reasons: While public health nurses surveyed recently report high levels of job satisfaction, they are "extremely unsatisfied" with their salaries, lack education and training resources, and don't see opportunities to grow into leadership roles.

Twenty-seven state health departments anticipate a shortage of public health RNs to meet population health needs within the next five years. Seventy-eight percent of those agencies cite retirement and noncompetitive wages as contributing factors, and 70% cite budget reductions as a factor.

On average it takes 10 weeks to fill an RN position at a state health department.

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