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Public Health Nursing Job Descriptions: Are They Aligned With Professional Standards?

Issel, L. Michele PhD, RN; Ashley, Michelle MSN/MPH, RN; Kirk, Hilary MPH; Bekemeier, Betty PhD, MPH, RN

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: May/June 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 3 - p E1–E8
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e31821c9eb0

Objectives: The American Nurses' Association (ANA) 2007 Public Health Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice along with the Quad Council's PHN competencies frame the practice of public health nurses (PHNs). The preface for ANA's PHN Scope and Standards encourages using the standards as the basis of PHN job descriptions. This study sought to assess the extent to which PHN job descriptions are aligned with the ANA's PHN Scope and Standards and the Quad Council competencies.

Design: We obtained PHN job descriptions from 3 local health departments in Illinois and 3 in Washington. Statements from the job descriptions were content analyzed, categorizing statements into the 16 ANA PHN Scope and Standards and using Quad Council competencies as additional definitions of each category. To code all job statements related to PHN practice, 2 categories were added which were MPH competencies from the Associations of Schools of Public Health. Interrater reliability was established.

Results: All 18 PHN job descriptions had statements related to Standard 5 Implementation, followed by 94% of the job descriptions having statements related to assessment, planning, coordination of services, health education/health promotion, and collaboration. The least frequently (22%) included standard was outcome identification.

Conclusions: Attention to human resource management is necessary to align job descriptions with current professional scope and standards for basic and advanced PHN practice. The lack of statements regarding Outcome Identification has serious implications for PHN involvement in quality improvement and health planning.

This study sought to assess the extent to which public health nurse job descriptions are aligned with the American Nurses Association's Public Health Nurses Scope and Standards and the Quad Council competencies.

School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago (Dr Issel and Ms Kirk); Department of Preventive Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York (Ms Ashley); and School of Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle (Dr Bekemeier).

Correspondence: L. Michele Issel, PhD, RN, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago,1603 W Taylor St (MC 923), Chicago, IL 60612 (

A special thanks goes to the 6 local health departments who were willing to share their job descriptions for this project. Funded in part by HRSA Bureau of Health Profession, Division of Nursing, under the Nurse Education, Practice and Retention Program, grant number D11HP14605.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.