How can a nurse transition into public health nursing?

By | 2021-05-07T16:30:29-04:00 August 11th, 2015|0 Comments

Dear Donna,

I have worked on a neuro unit in a hospital for seven years, but I have always been interested in public health nursing. Do you think I would be able to make a transition? How would I go about doing that? Would I be able to return to the hospital someday if I chose to? Please help.

Interested in Public Health Nursing


Dear Interested in Public Health Nursing,

You would definitely be able to make the transition into public health, which is a very broad specialty. The ambulatory care arena is one of the fastest-growing segments in healthcare right now, so you’ll be moving with the tide.
Start attending local chapter meetings of the American Public Health Association, even as a guest for now. Networking is an effective way to learn of opportunities and get interviews. While not all members of APHA are nurses, anyone working in the specialty is a good contact. Some chapters even have a sub-groups comprised of nurses.
The next thing to do is some informational interviewing with public health nurses at the city, county, state and national level. You should collect as much information as you can to make the best decision about your next move. Start with your local public health department and ask each nurse that you speak to for referrals to nurses working in different settings, for example state and federal government and agencies. The more contacts you make, the better your chances of finding the right opportunity. Learn to conduct an informational interview by reading the article “The scoop on informational interviewing.”
If your schedule permits, look for volunteer or even part-time paid employment in your local public health department to work at health fairs, give flu shots and so on. This is a good way to get your foot in the door somewhere and gain some relevant experience. Volunteering and part-time work can lead to full-time paid employment, and these opportunities can expand your professional network.
Another helpful article to read is “How to change specialties.”

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP,’s career advice columnist is president of Known as The Inspiration Nurse, she is a keynote speaker, retreat and seminar leader, and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” She brings more than 20 years of clinical, management and business experience to her role as career guru. To ask Donna question, email [email protected]



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About the Author:

Barry Bottino
Barry Bottino is a freelance writer and editor who has more than 25 years of experience at various newspapers and magazines.

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