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Public Health Nursing Practice Manual

Quad Council PHN Competencies


In 2000, the Quad Council began drafting a set of national competencies for public health nursing. This work was prompted, in part, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work on educating the public health workforce. The Council received feedback on a draft of these competencies from more than 220 nurses across the country who are members of one or more of its member organizations (see page A3). Public health core competencies are defined as a set of skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for the broad practice of public health.


The approach utilized by the Quad Council was to analyze the Council on Linkages between Academia and Public Health Practice (COL) “Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals” to determine their application to two levels of public health nursing practice: the staff nurse/generalist role and the manager/specialist/consultant role. The intent was to examine COL competencies’ fit in relation to public health nursing practice, and to identify and refine unique competencies for public health nursing.

Application of Competencies to Public Health Nursing

The Quad Council’s document focuses on how public health nurses apply the core competencies and defines the expected performance level for each competency statement. The document is designed for use with other documents such as the American Public Health Association’s “Definition of Public Health Nursing”, and the Public Health Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (American Nurses Association, 2007).

Population-Focused Practice

The Quad Council determined that, although COL competencies were developed with the understanding that public health practice is population-focused and public health nursing is also population-focused. However, one of the unique contributions of public health nurses is the ability to apply these principles at the individual and family level within the context of population-focused practice. Therefore, many of the competency statements indicate a level of awareness, knowledge or proficiency at the individual/family level.

Because of their population or system-focused language, the Quad Council determined that several specific competency statements and three entire domains would not include application at the individual/family level: “Domain 5 – community dimensions of practice,” Domain 7 – financial planning and management skills,” and Domain 8 – leadership and systems thinking skills.


  • Public health nurses must first possess the competencies common to all baccalaureate- prepared nurses and then demonstrate additional competencies specific to their roles in public health.

  • The progression from awareness to knowledge to proficiency is a continuum; there are no discrete boundaries between levels of competency.

© 2007 LAC DPH - Public Health Nursing


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