Public Health Nurses' Graduate Education Decision Making Processes

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Introduction A well-educated public health workforce is needed to improve population health. Although nurses constitute the largest number of U.S. public health professionals, those holding graduate degrees remain low. This study describes public health nurses' (PHNs) perspectives on graduate school decision-making processes. Methods Using a qualitative descriptive design, semi-structured, qualitative telephone interviews with PHNs (n = 30) were conducted June 2014–January 2015. Study participants included PHNs from 17 states employed in a variety of positions within government health agencies, academe, and business. Interview transcripts were coded and thematically analyzed. Results PHNs' pursuit of a graduate degree varied, often depending on work setting and/or availability of degree programs. Many study participants were unaware of the public health nursing graduate degree option, with only 9 of 26 participants obtaining an advanced degree in public health nursing. The MPH degree however, was well-known and particularly valued. Conclusion Opportunities for graduate public health nursing are limited; as such, marketing of existing programs need to be nationally coordinated and new collaborative efforts between schools of nursing and schools of public health developed. These efforts are required if graduate-prepared public health nurses are to be part of the future workforce, prepared to tackle increasingly complex population health issues.

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Journal of Professional Nursing



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