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Abstract A profile of the education levels of practicing public health nurses (PHNs) in Mississippi in 1988 indicated that 71% of those nurses were prepared in associate degree or diploma programs. Since these programs typically do not provide formal academic courses in community health nursing, nurses currently enter the workplace with insufficient preparation for this increasingly complex role. A collaborative pilot study between the agency and a state-supported school of nursing evaluated the impact of participating in selected components of an academic community health nursing program on the self-reported competencies and functions of beginning PHNs. Twelve PHNs who were employed during six months in the geographic area contiguous to the school were selected to attend 10 classroom sessions on basic topics applicable to the generic PHN role in a southern state. A control group of 12 PHNs hired during the same period of time was also selected. Both groups completed an instrument on functions and competencies before and after the course. A significant difference was seen in certain functions and competencies between attenders and nonattenders.