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Public health nurses (PHNs) are registered nurses whose work and focus is on community health and wellbeing.

Public health nurses do health assessments and disease prevention activities in schools and community settings. Most have very broad responsibilities and are involved in a great variety of work. Some specialise in particular issues such as refugee health, housing issues, child protection and communicable disease control.

They play a key co-ordination role between families / whānau, communities, and health (and other) organisations and agencies. They are also among the first people to gauge any major health and social trends in the community as they see these trends impacting on their clients.


  • Advocate for healthy home environments with families / whānau and communities
  • Play a major part in implementing an immunisation programme
  • Work with others to develop one-stop-shop health services, for example, a one-stop-shop for youth health
  • Work with a primary healthcare organisation (PHO)
  • Work with teachers to promote health programmes in schools

Who employs public health nurses?

Almost all public health nurses are employed by district health boards. Some work in public health units and others in departments such as Child Health or Family Health.

Most public health nurses are very mobile, moving around their community every day, touching base with a wide number of organisations and people. They are key players in ensuring the health and wellbeing of communities.

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