The Résumé Rx

Your Ultimate Career Guide to Community Health Nursing: How to Get Started and What to Expect!

Amanda Guarniere

Imagine yourself in a career that goes beyond the traditional hospital setting, where your office is the community and your mission is to foster the collective well-being of its members. 

Welcome to the incredible world of Community Health Nursing. This career is all about teaching and providing comprehensive care in non-hospital environments and working hand-in-hand with healthcare teams to make a difference in public health. 

Curious to know more? In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the responsibilities, the career path, and the steps to becoming a community health nurse. 


What does a Community Health Nurse do?

In our bustling cities, sleepy suburbs, and countryside homes, a special breed of healthcare professionals tirelessly work to ensure our well-being: Community Health Nurses (CHN). 

These unsung heroes don’t just clock in at hospitals or clinics. Instead, they reach out to us in our daily lives, making their presence felt at college campuses, churches, shopping malls, and even public parks. The CHN’s primary goal is to enhance community health, one interaction at a time. 

With a diverse range of subspecialties under their belt, the responsibilities of a CHN can be quite varied. However, a set of core duties lies at the heart of their profession, including: 

  • Providing In-house Treatment and Support Services: CHNs are not just nurses; they are also caregivers. They provide treatments within the comfort of your home, helping manage chronic conditions or aiding recovery post-surgery.
  • Free Health Screenings: These nurses are often the first line of defense against common ailments like diabetes and hypertension. They conduct free screenings, aiding early detection and better management of such diseases.
  • Promoting Healthy Lifestyles: CHNs are passionate advocates for good health. With their rich knowledge base, they educate communities on disease prevention and the importance of adopting healthy lifestyles.
  • Counseling At-Risk Individuals: Some people are more prone to illness or injury due to genetic, environmental, or lifestyle factors. CHNs provide personalized counseling to these at-risk individuals, helping them make safer health choices.
  • Medical Insurance Education: Navigating the labyrinth of medical insurance can be tough. CHNs educate community members about different insurance options, assisting the uninsured or underinsured in accessing necessary medical services.
  • Community Outreach: From health fairs to vaccination drives, CHNs are always on the front lines. They actively participate in community outreach programs, bringing healthcare services closer to the people who need them most.

Community Health Nurse Salary & Job Outlook (How much do they actually make?)

The community health nursing career is an area of specialization for registered nurses (RNs). This means their salaries are somewhat similar to that of RNs. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage of RNs as of May 2022 is $89000.  To put this into perspective – the bottom 10 RNs earn an average of $61,000, while the top ten earn $129,000.

Employment for RNs is projected to grow by 6% from 2021 through 2031, with an estimated 203,200 job openings each year. 

Community Health Nurse Subspecialties

Community health nursing covers several domains of healthcare that aim to prevent illnesses and improve healthcare for the community, including clinical research, school nursing, and many others. 

This section will skim the surface of the subspecialties you can consider if you decide to be a community health nurse yourself!

Behavioral Health Specialist

Community Health Nurses (CHNs) have the opportunity to pursue a specialization in behavioral health. This specific focus equips them with the expertise to provide mental healthcare services within various community settings. The advantage of this approach is its potential to help in the early detection of concerns related to depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders. 

To excel as a CHN behavioral health specialist, there are certain characteristics and skills that you need to possess. It’s crucial to be empathetic, patient and organized. Creativity, enthusiasm, and a practical yet passionate approach to your work are equally important. Of course, being qualified in your field and being excellent at time management are also key ingredients to success in this role.

Occupational Health Nurse

Occupational health nurses take care of employees at their place of work. This type of Community Health Nurse (CHN) promotes public health by reducing hazards in the workplace. Occupational health nurses have a variety of responsibilities. They train employees, analyze injury reports, and provide first aid education to prevent work-related health issues. Moreover, they also advise healthcare professionals and increase awareness of the impact of work on health.

Women’s Health Nurse

Women’s health nurses are valuable contributors in clinics and other healthcare facilities, where they serve women’s health needs. They may operate as primary medical providers or function as an integral part of a team. 

Their services are diverse and essential, spanning reproductive care, gynecology, maternal health, menopause, and family planning, amongst other fundamental services for women.

Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses play a pivotal role in administering comprehensive healthcare services to children, from their infancy right through adolescence. Their job isn’t just about medical checkups and bandaging scraped knees – they’re educators too! They take the time to teach children about disease prevention, the importance of proper nutrition, and cultivating healthy practices. 

But their job doesn’t stop there. These healthcare heroes are integral during children’s medical procedures, providing not just support, but also education and guidance to anxious parents. They’re always there, ready to tackle health issues like blood pressure and diabetes. 

School Nurse

A school nurse holds a special position within the educational system, dedicating their efforts to ensure the well-being and safety of children. Their role is pivotal in shielding children from infectious diseases, facilitating access to essential healthcare services in case of injury or illness, and guiding them toward making healthy lifestyle choices. 

These healthcare professionals are not confined to a single level of education. In fact, they can be found working at every level of education, from the bustling corridors of preschools to the vibrant campuses of high schools and colleges. 

Their duties extend beyond just routine health checks. Their day-to-day activities involve managing injuries, addressing feeding disabilities, and conducting vision and hearing screenings. Moreover, they shoulder the responsibility of educating students about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use, playing a key role in prevention efforts.

If you’d like to explore the career path of a School Nurse in more detail, you can check out our complete guide here!

Clinical Research Nurse

Clinical research nurses play a vital role in the healthcare field, acting as the bridge between healthcare providers and clinical trial researchers. Their responsibilities are manifold, including recruiting study participants, guiding patients through the trial process, meticulously maintaining accurate records, and collecting invaluable data for research purposes. These dedicated professionals are often found in academic institutions, medical research centers, hospitals, and clinics, contributing to the advancement of science and improving patient care.

Career Path to Becoming a Community Health Nurse 

Step 1: Complete Community Health Nursing Education Requirements

The journey to becoming a community health nurse usually starts with acquiring an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN). The ADN is typically a 2-year program, while a BSN takes 4 years to complete. It’s worth noting that investing in a BSN may give you an edge, as this is the qualification that most employers prefer.

Step 2: Get Licensure as a Registered Nurse

After graduating from an accredited nursing program, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam (or other relevant exam) for licensure.

Step 3: Get Experience

Once you have an active RN license, you’ll need another 1-2 years of clinical experience.

Certification Requirements for a Community Health Nurse 

Entry-level public health nurses and community health nurses are not currently required to have any particular certification. However, this does not mean that furthering your education and credentials is without merit. In fact, nurses that hold at least a bachelor’s degree and boast at least five years of relevant clinical experience can apply for the Certification in Public Health (CPH) from the National Board of Public Health Examiners

As a health professional, getting certified in your field does more than just add another line to your resume. It can highlight your skills and expertise, setting you apart from your peers and potentially boosting your pay. Remember, in the world of community health nursing, knowledge is power, and that power can lead to both personal satisfaction and professional advancement.

Where do Community Health Nurses Work? 

Community health nurses are an integral part of our healthcare system. They provide invaluable services to people who live in settings with limited access to health resources. These unsung heroes work tirelessly to ensure that everyone, regardless of their location or living conditions, has access to quality healthcare, which include but are not limited to:

  • Schools, where they provide health education to students and staff, manage health crises, and provide care to students with chronic diseases.
  • Prisons, where they provide healthcare to inmates, often in challenging conditions.
  • Veterans’ facilities, offering health services to those who have served their country.
  • Community centers, providing health education and preventive care to community members.
  • Outpatient and inpatient facilities, handling patient care and recovery.
  • Nursing homes and retirement communities, caring for elderly patients and offering comfort to their families.
  • Homeless shelters, providing healthcare to some of society’s most marginalized and at-risk individuals.
  • Religious institutions, offering health education and basic medical care.
  • Social service agencies, working closely with social workers and other professionals to provide holistic patient care.
  • Public health departments, promoting public health through education and preventive care.
  • Business centers, offering health education and wellness programs to employees.

In all these settings, community health nurses strive to improve the health outcomes of individuals, families, and communities. They believe that everyone is deserving of quality healthcare, and they dedicate their careers to making this belief a reality. 

Core Skills Required to Become a Community Health Nurse

If you’re considering a career in community health nursing, you’re about to embark on a fulfilling journey. This role is not just about dispensing medication or bandaging wounds – it’s about building healthier communities, one interaction at a time. Given the nature of their work, community health nurses must possess a unique set of skills, such as: 

  1. Desire to Promote Public Health: A passion for promoting and improving public health is at the heart of community nursing. This means not just treating illnesses, but also educating communities about preventative measures.
  2. Strong Verbal Skills and Written Communication: Nurses interact with a variety of individuals, from patients to their families, and other healthcare professionals. Clear and effective communication is key to ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding healthcare plans.
  3. The Ability to Manage Several Projects Concurrently: Community health nurses often juggle multiple tasks at the same time. From managing vaccination drives to organizing health education seminars, multitasking is an essential skill in this field.
  4. Ability to Work Independently: While teamwork is important, community health nurses often find themselves working independently. Being self-motivated and capable of making critical decisions alone is crucial.
  5. Creative Thinking and Problem-Solving: Every day presents a new challenge in the field of community health nursing. An ability to think outside the box, devise new strategies, and solve problems creatively is a must-have skill.
  6. Empathy and Open-mindedness: The ability to understand and share the feelings of others is a vital trait. Combined with open-mindedness, this allows for a better understanding of patient needs and helps in providing personalized care.

All in all, community health nursing is an enriching and rewarding career choice for those with the right skills and passion. If you possess these qualities, you’re already on the right track to making a real difference in public health.


How long does it take to become a community health nurse?

Community health nurses complete 4-6 years of rigorous education and training, including an ADN or BSN degree and potentially a master’s degree in nursing.

Are community health nurses in demand?

Yes, it is estimated that the demand for community health nurses will increase by 6% from 2021 to 2031, resulting in approximately 203,200 job opportunities annually.

What is the difference between a community health nurse and a hospital nurse? 

A hospital nurse is typically assigned to a specific area within a hospital. In this dedicated environment, they provide care to individual patients who are hospitalized within a ward unit. This setting allows for a controlled environment, enabling the nurse to focus extensively on the patient’s needs.

Community Health Nurses primarily work with entire populations, rather than individual patients. It’s all about the bigger picture and the health of the community as a whole. 

They address the needs of small groups, such as families, and also attend to subgroups within the community. While they focus on larger populations, Community Health Nurses can also cater to the needs of smaller groups. They may work with individual families, or specific subgroups within the community, ensuring that everyone gets the care and attention they need. 

Their environment is not controlled as anything can be expected. Unlike a hospital or clinic setting, the environment in community health nursing is unpredictable. Nurses in this field must be adaptable, and ready for anything that may come their way.

What is the difference between a community health nurse and public health nurse? 

Public health nurses make a significant impact on the wellness of our society. They put their investigative hats on to analyze records, scientific studies, and population data. Their goal? To devise strategies that can prevent injuries or diseases and promote public health. With their keen eyes for details and avid interest in the betterment of humanity, they strive to safeguard communities and ensure that they thrive healthily. 

In contrast, community health nurses have a slightly different focus. They concentrate on the resources available to community members that support their health and well-being. They are the health advocates within the communities, identifying the needs and working closely with individuals and families to provide care and education. 


1 Comment

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    It’s clear that you are passionate about making a positive impact and your blog is a testament to that Thank you for all that you do


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