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Public Health Nurse Recruitment Barriers Detailed

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, July 1, 2013

"It may be more difficult to attract younger nurses now because of pay differential and unfortunate attitude in this country about government workers that aren't valued as highly as other workers, even though they are very dedicated and passionate people willing to make sacrifices on salary," said Jarris. 

But a perception among nurses that opportunities for leadership roles and career advancement are lacking in the public health sector is confirmed by the survey data. Nearly 70% of local health departments and 63% of state health departments reported that promotion opportunities are often unavailable to RNs.  

The report offers these recommendations for recruiting and retaining nurses:

  • Nursing degree programs should develop more clinical training or internship options for students to work in health agencies and other public health settings  
  • Health departments should consider establishing policies that allow for tuition reimbursement for RNs in exchange for a guaranteed minimum number of years of service when possible.  
  • Steps must be taken to provide a pathway for experienced public health nurses to serve in public health leadership roles, including program officer/director, division/department director, and health officer.  
  • Health departments should periodically evaluate the salary ranges they provide to RNs to those in jurisdictions of comparable size and geographic location to insure parity in compensation.  

"Within field of nursing, there's a misperception that the bedside is the leading place for nurses, but the industry fails to appreciate the critical role public health nurses play," says Jarvis. "I would call upon organized nursing organizations to start to include public health nursing within the issues they highlight, and support public health nursing to the same extent they support hospital and hospice nursing."


Chelsea Rice is an associate editor for HealthLeaders Media.
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