Make an impact on your community and career
Make an impact on your community and career

Online MSN in Community-Based Public Health Specialization

You became a nurse to make a difference. Follow your passion to a thriving career in community health.

Infectious disease, opioid misuse, vaccine-preventable diseases, heart disease, mental health, climate change, and pollution are among the top health concerns in the United States–each necessitating robust public health intervention. Oklahoma City University’s 21-credit Community-Based Public Health Specialization will prepare nurses to become public health leaders who conduct investigations into these types of issues and their impact on the community. With careful consideration of and input from the community that they’re serving, students will become community health nurses who can educate and strategize to provide comprehensive, life-changing care.

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Community health nursing skills

Today, the American Nurses Association (ANA) defines public health nursing as, “The practice of promoting and protecting the health of populations using knowledge from nursing, social, and public health sciences.”1 Public health nurses work together using advocacy, education, and policy development to address topics including: immunizations, infection prevention, environmental health, opioid crisis response and issues of social justice.1 While certain organizations and associations may prefer the use of one term over the other, as the field has expanded, the terms “public health” and “community health” have become essentially interchangeable.

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Community health nurses can be responsible for:

  • Designing and implementing education programs about prevention measures, healthy lifestyles, and disease prevention
  • Advocating for health policy development and reform on behalf of the community
  • Researching interventions, policy, and programs that improve public health
  • Reviewing historical records, scientific studies, and population data to prevent injuries and illnesses to promote health across populations
  • Leading other nurses in public health endeavors within the federal government, state or local governments, medical laboratories, hospitals, or other community organizations

MSN Online: Community-Based Public Health Specialization

In addition to the core MSN online courses, MSN Community-Based Public Health nursing students will take 21-credit hours of courses in their specialization. Building fundamental skills in leadership and management while deepening their knowledge of key public health topics, students will graduate prepared to be effective public health nurses.

NURS 6813 Foundations of Community-based Public Health – 3 credit hours

Examination of the core competencies necessary for successful public health delivery based on community needs. Examines historical and theoretical background of community-based public health. The impact of political, economic, social, environmental, and cultural concerns on the health of populations is explored.

NURS 6803 Advanced Health Promotion and Risk Reduction – 3 credit hours

Conceptual and theoretical foundation for advanced nursing assessment and management of selected healthcare concerns/client populations. Emphasis is on development of expertise in risk anticipation for individuals and cohorts of clients and design and implementation of evidence-based practice(s) for specific client population(s).

NURS 6814 Introduction to Epidemiology and Data Management – 4 credit hours

Introduces the basic concepts of epidemiology and biostatistics as applied to public health problems. Emphasis is placed on the principles and methods of epidemiologic investigation, appropriate summaries and displays of data, and the use of classical statistical approaches to describe the health of populations.

NURS 6824 Ethics, Law and Healthcare Policy in Community-based Public Health – 4 credit hours

Nursing and healthcare ethics, law, and policy advocacy at the national, state, and local levels are the focus of this course. The influence of ethical, political, regulatory, and legal issues on nurses in community-based public health settings are examined.

NURS 6303 Contemporary Healthcare Organizations – 3 credit hours

Business and human relationship skills to guide the operation of contemporary healthcare organizations. Evidence-based practice management strategies to enhance leadership effectiveness in a variety of healthcare settings.

NURS 6314 Healthcare Economics and Financial Management – 4 credit hours

Management of financial resources in the healthcare industry, public and private healthcare funding, applied financial management, management resource systems, budgeting, and nursing resource allocation are examined and applied to modern health systems.
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Drive change with an MSN Specialization in Community Public Health Nursing

Combine your nursing experience with your interest in social justice and health equity to make a difference in the lives of your neighbors and community members. With your MSN specialization in public health you’ll have a better opportunity to steer your career in an exciting direction.

Take the lead in community-based nursing

Designed to prepare nurses to assume leadership roles in assessing communities and populations, the OCU MSN public health master’s specialization will prepare nursing students to identify high-risk groups, and, in partnership with communities, consumers, and stakeholders, develop culturally sensitive, evidence-based, and population appropriate nursing interventions to positively impact the determinants of health.

Master’s in community-based nursing FAQ

What is a master's in community health nursing?

Earning a master's in community health nursing means you're earning your Master of Science degree with a specialization in community-based public health. For our purposes "community health" and "public health" refer to the same practice. By naming our specialization "Community-based public health," we're emphasizing the central role the community plays in public health and that interventions and programming are best performed when they are rooted in the values and interests of the community itself.

Our MSN public health specialization will shape you into a community health leader, prepared to identify high-risk populations and work in partnership with community members to develop culturally appropriate interventions.

In the public health specialization, you will take the same 12 credits of core nursing courses (plus 13 more bachelor's level nursing credits if you're in the accelerated RN-MSN program) as all MSN students. Additionally, you will take 25 credits of public health nursing courses, as outlined above.

What can you do with an MSN in public health nursing?

If you're interested in progressive research, social justice, and health equity, community health is absolutely the best environment for you to work in. You could end up on the front lines of protecting the public from the next pandemic, changing and improving common interventions and health education standards, and much more.

As far as jobs go, you could use your MSN in public health in areas such as:
  • Research
  • Policy analysis
  • Epidemiology
  • Global or environmental health
  • Administration and education
  • Community health and/or school nursing

Is public health nursing a good career?

Public health nursing is a great career. Given the wide variety of problem-solving, research, and practical nursing skills you'll gain in the MSN with a public health specialization, you'll be able to combine your interests and values into your career for a rewarding working life. Working in public health nursing requires a certain level of grit and creativity which will serve you well no matter what setting you find yourself working in.

History of public health and community health nursing

Public health was once primarily made up of isolation and quarantine measures to battle diseases like smallpox and typhoid. But with industrialization and urbanization increasing the density of cities in the 1800s, public health came to be understood as a societal issue with a concentration put on sanitation efforts in addition to disease prevention.2 As a nurse, you’re likely familiar with Florence Nightingale’s innovative work. She changed how we understand the widespread health benefits of sanitation, health reform, and administration, and was also a leader in using statistics and visual analytics to communicate research findings. In many ways, she paved the way for public health nursing which has come a long way since its initial form in the 18th century.

Public health nurses are crucial to our communities as demonstrated by their work managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health nurses in clinics, hospitals, city, state and county health departments, Rural Health Centers, tribal clinics and beyond were key in educating their communities about prevention measures, distributing vaccines, and supporting some of the most vulnerable populations in the country. While there’s no specific employment outlook data for the field of public health nursing, employment of registered nurses overall is projected to grow by 6%3 while the projected growth for health education specialists and community health workers is at 12%,4 signaling a promising job outlook for nurses in public health.


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