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A detrimental shortage: Need for Public Health Nurses

Posted at 11:25 PM, Apr 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-06 23:32:16-04

When you think of nursing, these are probably the images that come to mind, critical care cases where nurses are springing into action to save lives.

 

But in this small clinic space in the Carroll County Health Department, Nurse Practitioner Cindy Marucci -Bosley might argue they're saving lives too.

 

"Our goal is to serve every single person in Carroll County whether they realize it or not.  They're all a client of the health department."

 

Marucci-Bosley is the Director of Nursing for the county.  She's been a public health nurse for 35 years.

 

"It's part being a nurse, it's part being a social worker, it's part being a teacher, it's part being an advocate and it just fit in perfectly when I wanted to be in nursing."

 

But she's seen a shift in her decades.  Now she says there are fewer nurses, and fewer programs to help bridge the gap.  They currently help the under or uninsured through four safety net programs, dental, reproductive health, HIV and child immunizations.

But they've lost 20 programs and 20 nurses.  Marruci-Bosley citing a recent study worries about the future.

 

"Over 40% of all staff currently working in the health department are over the age of 55 and the problem is we don't know who's going to replace us."

 

The salary is two-thirds of what the private sector pays, there's little room for advancement and the jobs aren't glitzy or glamorous, but that didn't discourage Jean Flutka.

 

"I was a vet tech. I really loved medicine and teaching and things like that, so I just thought this would be my opportunity to do it with humans."

 

Flutka is the newest member of the nursing team. It was an internship at the health department that sparked her interest in public health.  She's tracking trends in communicable diseases and working with HIV patients.

 

"You get to educate people.  You get to help identify trends in the community, and things like and provide for the greater good of the community."

 

Public health runs four programs.  So what happens if more nurses like Jean don't join their ranks, that keeps Marucci-Bosley up at night.

 

"I think the public would suffer in that a lot of those safety net problems.  If we were to stop our reproductive health program then there would 1200 people with no place to get care.  That is very concerning."

 

While she's concerned about the future of public health.....she knows it takes a special kind of person to do the job.

 

"For someone coming to public health, it has to be something where they realize that they are not going to necessarily going to get the highest salary but perhaps they're going to get a little bit more out of it.  Personally, because they feel like they're making a difference, that's why I stayed.