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One of the greatest challenges facing both the Commonwealth of Kentucky -- and the country -- is the current and growing shortage of health professionals, particularly nurses.

A new program from both the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Public Health and the UK College of Nursing offers students a new pathway to make a difference in communities.

Through the Public Health Nursing Scholars program, students will earn two degrees – Bachelor of Public Health (BPH) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – in just 4.5 years.

“Having these two programs together shows how important it is to try to fix health issues on the front side as much as possible before people end up in the hospital. We need to intervene much sooner and try to make our communities healthier,” said Andrea Flinchum, Program Manager for the Healthcare-Associated Infection/Antibiotic Resistance Prevention Program at the Kentucky Department for Public Health. “I love that I can impact a large group or a population with my knowledge and skills. This program is taking nursing to a larger scale, rather than one or two patients. Nurses play a key role in public health.”

Public health nurses play key roles in preventing disease while promoting public safety and well-being. Public health nurses promote better health and safety in communities and help prepare them for and recover from public health incidents, such as natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

“Public health is faced with existing and emerging complex health challenges: chronic conditions, infectious diseases and pandemics, traumatic injuries, and environmental hazards," said Heather Bush, Ph.D., Dean of the UK College of Public Health. “Effective solutions require bringing people, skills and expertise together. The Public Health Nursing Scholars Program is such a partnership. Training at the intersection of our two colleges equips graduates to tackle emerging health needs on two fronts: delivering high-quality care to individuals while addressing upstream factors impacting health outcomes to ultimately build a more resilient healthcare system.”

“Public health is the cornerstone of the work of the baccalaureate-prepared Registered Nurse,” said Rosalie Mainous, Ph.D., Dean of the UK College of Nursing. “A partnership with the College of Public Health will now prepare practitioners that are uniquely qualified to blend the practice degree with one that is steeped in the evidence in genetics, the environment, and health policy to support healthy outcomes.”

A variety of agencies and industries are looking to hire those with a public health nursing background.

Government and other public agencies hire public health nurses, and job opportunities are available with agencies and organizations that serve the health needs of a community. Public health nurses might work for a school system to educate students and their parents about hygiene and nutrition or work for a community clinic caring for individuals and promoting disease prevention.

Public health nurses also work with nonprofit organizations like the Red Cross or smaller grassroots groups concerned about health, social justice, and education.

The Kentucky Nurses Association predicted a potential need for 20,000 nurses in the state by 2025. Across the country, the need for nurses is only continuing to grow with more than 300,000 additional nursing jobs expected by 2032. The current median salary for nurses is $37.28 per hour or $77,500 per year.

For more information on the Public Health Nursing Scholars program, visit