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The Role of a Community Health Nurse

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Mar 26, 2024
A Community Health Nurse Talks With a Young Patient and Their Parent.

The Role of a Community Health Nurse

Nurses play an essential role in promoting healthy outcomes for individual patients. In some cases, nurses may also advocate for the health and well-being of entire communities, supporting not only individuals but whole demographics. One example of this role is that of a community health nurse.

For those with a nursing background and an interest in population health, the role of a community health nurse can be highly rewarding. The best way to prepare for success in this vocation is to pursue robust clinical training, such as enrollment in an RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program.

Understanding the Role of a Community Health Nurse

To understand the role of a community health nurse, it is first necessary to have some background in the field of public health nursing.

Public health nursing is a subfield of the nursing profession. Here, qualified providers use their clinical knowledge to review federal, state, and municipal data, and reach informed conclusions about health trends within a particular population. A public health nurse might also provide the public with tips for preventing disease, eating properly, maintaining proper hygiene, and responding to public health emergencies.

Community health nursing is a subset of public health nursing. Community health nurses focus their practice more narrowly, advocating for local communities to get the health care or medical services they need. As part of their job, community health nurses might access relevant data to determine the individuals in their community who most need assistance from local health providers or government support services.

Work Environment

Typically, community health nurses work for state or local governments. On a day-to-day basis, they might split their time between hospitals, community clinics, laboratories, and government office spaces.

Duties and Responsibilities

The role of a community health nurse may vary from one position to the next, but typical duties and responsibilities include the following.

  • Reviewing public health data to identify demographic trends within a particular population

  • Reaching out to target individuals or communities regarding available resources

  • Preparing and delivering educational materials focused on disease prevention or wellness promotion

  • Assessing needs and collaborating with local clinicians to develop potential solutions

  • Administering public health services, such as vaccinations

Community Health Nurse Salary Outlook

The median annual salary for community health nurses was approximately $76,390 as of February 2024, according to the compensation website Payscale. Factors that can affect salary include level of education, years of experience, and geographic location. 

By contrast, Payscale data from the same time period shows nurses in public health made a median annual salary of approximately $71,270.

As for job prospects, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects positions for RNs in general to grow by 6% between 2022 and 2032. This is higher than the average for the U.S. job market as a whole during that same time.

Becoming a Community Health Nurse

To assume the role of a community health nurse, it’s important to gain the right experience and credentials. There are several steps involved, including formal education as well as work in the field.

1. Pursue Education

To ensure the right portfolio of clinical skills, it’s paramount to earn a nursing degree. In some cases, this might mean a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Prospective nurses interested in more advanced roles and increased responsibility often choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). 

2. Become Licensed

After earning a nursing degree, the next step is to seek licensure at the state level. State nursing boards require the completion of the NCLEX-RN exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nurses (NCSBN).

3. Gain Experience

To qualify for the most in-demand community health nursing roles, it’s important to gain real-world clinical experience. Ideally, this means working in public health clinics, though hospital shifts can also provide invaluable insights into administering patient care.

4. Foster Key Skills

Success in the role of a community health nurse requires the right balance of skills. These formative skills should be the focus of any classroom or on-the-job training. Some of the most notable competencies include:

  • Sensitivity and empathy

  • Cultural competence

  • Strong written and verbal communication

  • Familiarity with data and analysis

  • Critical thinking

Explore Community Health Nursing Career Paths

Every community requires clinical professionals to promote healthy outcomes and keep diseases in check. Community health nurses can play an essential role in providing these services. The first step toward long-term success in this career is to pursue the right education and foster new nursing skills.

At The University of Tulsa, we are proud to offer an online RN to BSN program. The program makes it possible for working nurses to earn a bachelor’s in nursing through flexible and convenient coursework. 

Explore our curriculum today to discover how you can earn a nursing degree in as little as 12 months, and take an important step toward meaningful work in community health nursing.

Recommended Readings

Non-Bedside Nursing Jobs You Can Get With a BSN

Day Shift vs. Night Shift Nursing: Pros and Cons

International Travel Nursing: How to Work Abroad as a Nurse


Indeed, “How to Become a Community Nurse”

Indeed, “Public Health Nursing vs. Community Health Nursing”

Payscale, Community Health Nurse

Payscale, Public Health Nurse

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

ZipRecruiter, What Is a Community Health Nurse and How to Become One

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