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What's the best way to integrate a bachelor's degree in human services into a career as a community health nurse?

Tuesday November 13, 2012
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Dear Donna,

I would like to pursue a career as a community health nurse so I can assist individuals in low-income areas. I don't have a nursing education or background, but I have a bachelor's degree in human services. What is the best course of action to take to integrate both? I would really appreciate your help in this. I really want to get the process going but don't know where to start.

Wants to Be a Community Health Nurse

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Wants to Be a Community Health Nurse,

Since you already have a bachelor's degree in another major, look for a "second degree BSN program" or an accelerated BSN program. You could also seek a combination BSN/MSN in public health degree, but that is not necessary at this time.

Once you get your nursing degree and license, seek a position in the public health sector — that may be with your city, county or state department of health. It could also be with any government agency, including the Indian Health Service, a school or a clinic.

There are loan forgiveness programs available from the federal government for nurses, in exchange for working in underserved areas after graduation. Find out more at www.hrsa.gov/loanscholarships/repayment/nursing/

In the interim, seek volunteer work (or paid work if you can get it) in any public health department, agency or the American Red Cross. Also check out the American Public Health Association, Public Health Nursing group www.apha.org/membergroups/newsletters/sectionnewsletters/public_nur/. Volunteering is a great way to gain relevant experience, build your professional network and get your foot in the door.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.