Improving Public Health Nursing Education: Recommendations of Local Public Health Nurses


  • Susan J. Zahner, Dr.P.H., R.N., is Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, Madison, Wisconsin. Quynh-Nga B. Gredig, M.S., M.P.H., R.N., is Public Health Nurse, North Central Public Health Center, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, San Diego, California.

* Susan J. Zahner, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, H6/246 Clinical Sciences Center, 600 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53792-2455. E-mail:


Abstract Objectives: This paper reports recommendations for improving public health nursing (PHN) undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education (CE) made by staff-level public health nurses working in local health departments (LHDs). Implications for academia and practice are discussed. Design: A cross-sectional written survey was used to collect data from 424 public health nurses in 76 LHDs in Wisconsin (68% response rate) in 2003. Recommendations for improving undergraduate, graduate, and CE were made through responses to open-ended survey questions. Content analysis was conducted to identify major themes among responses. Results: Major themes emerging from the recommendations for undergraduate education included the need for more clinical public health experiences and population-focused practice content. Graduate education improvement recommendations included addressing access barriers and increasing organizational incentives. Improved access and more public health content were the major recommendations for improving CE. Conclusions: Implications for academia focus on increasing opportunities for students to experience population-focused PHN and to learn organizational and collaborative practice skills, supporting PHN preceptors and building evidence for PHN intervention through research. Implications for practice include the need to expand opportunities for students with LHDs and to collaborate with academic partners for education and research.