Public health nursing is a unique and challenging specialty. Public health nurses don't just report to work and take care of an assigned number of patients; they work with members of a community to promote wellness and preventive care. A large part of their daily duties is education, so public health nurses must be skilled in assessing learning needs and the community's willingness to comply with health-related recommendations.

Why Do I Need a Public Health Nurse Certification?

While some states allow nurses to practice as a public health nurse without certification, other states require formal certification. Some BSN programs are set up to meet the requirements for public health nursing, so the graduate would just need to apply in the state of licensure. Public health nurse certification also demonstrates that the nurse has the knowledge and skills needed to identify population health concerns and follow specific standards of care to meet the needs of that population.

Where Can I Get a Public Health Nurse Certification?

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) at one point offered advanced public health nursing certification, but this has since been retired. However, they currently offer a National Healthcare Disaster Certification, which does address public health issues in the event of an environmental or other type of disaster, focusing on the response and recovery of public health issues. This certification is open to many different health professionals.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

Certificate Name: National Healthcare Disaster Professional Certification

Credential Awarded: NHDP-BC

Cost: $395, and $270 for American Nurses Association members

Certification Requirements & Eligibility

Requirements for this certification include:

  • Have a minimum of 3 years disaster experience in the last 10 years in one or more of the following roles: RN, physician, APRN, PA, pharmacist, paramedic/EMT, behavioral health provider, emergency management professional, respiratory therapist, or public health professional
  • Have documented participation in a disaster
  • Completed one of the following disaster exercises: full-scale, functional, table-top
  • Have completed a certificate of completion in specified FEMA emergency management courses

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

The American Nurses Credentialing Center also has an Advanced Public Health Nursing Certification, available for renewal only:

Certificate Name: Public Health Nurse Advanced

Credential Awarded: PHNA-BC

Cost: $350 non-member, $250 American Nurses Association member, $295 American Public Health Association-Public Health Nursing Section member

Certification Requirements & Eligibility

Requirements to renew this certification include:

  • Completion of a mandatory 75 credit hours and one or more renewal categories for public health certification, within the previous five years. Details on the credit hours and renewal categories can be found here.
  • Hold current ANCC certification that is expiring within twelve months
  • Hold a current RN license
  • Pay applicable renewal fees

National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE)

Certificate Name: Certified in Public Health

Credential Awarded: CPH

Cost: $385. A full listing of eligible discounts can be found here

Certification Requirements & Eligibility

Applicants must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled as a student in a Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)-accredited school
  • Alumni of a school or public health program accredited by CEPH (master's or doctoral)
  • Have public health work experience as well as:
    • At least a bachelor's degree and five years' work experience in public health, or
    • A graduate-level degree in a related field and at least three years' public health work experience
    • A certificate from a public health program or school that is accredited by CEPH, as well as three years' public health work experience

For more information, the NBPHE has a detailed applicant handbook.

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