Public Health Nursing

A nurse with patients

By Emmett Steele ‘22

Mohawk College has launched a new Public Health Nursing Ontario College Graduate Certificate Program this year. The program aims to become a nationally recognized certification for those wishing to enter public health nursing.

Under the guidance of lead subject matter expert, Ruth Schofield, a Mohawk College instructor and retired McMaster University assistant clinical professor, the program starts with the foundations of public health nursing practice and builds from there. Students will learn essential concepts, theories and practices, and successful graduates will gain the knowledge and skills required to make decisions at all levels of public health nursing practice for individuals, families, groups, and communities.

“The public health nursing postgraduate program is an advanced preparation beyond the baccalaureate preparation for registered nurses to prepare them for public health nursing practice in Canada,” said Ruth. “The mission for the program is to advance innovative and competent nursing practice in Canada, contributing to the capacity building of public health human resources through advanced preparation of postgraduate nurses. This program will prepare leaders in public health nursing practice to strengthen response to current and future health practices.”

Geared towards both new nursing graduates or experienced nurses transitioning to public health, the Public Health Nursing program consists of 10 courses and can be completed in two years. The program is completely online and features asynchronous learning, with admissions available every semester, with an applied clinical experience at the end of the program.

This focused education is vital to building Canada’s public health nursing capacity. Though public health nursing is part of the generalist preparation for registered nurses, many bachelors of nursing programs do not prepare students for the complex scope of practice for public health nursing. As a result, many new nurses require more training when they are first hired. "Nurses who have been practicing for a number of years are so accustomed to practicing in an acute care environment like a hospital that for them to move into public health is significantly different, requiring significant preparation,” said Ruth.

The program aims to reduce that orientation time and prepare nurses for public health by teaching evidenced-informed practices developed by nursing faculty and public health nurse practitioners from across Canada. According to Ruth, nurses who attend the program will be uniquely prepared to enter the public health nursing workforce.

“This program is the only one of its kind. It’s the only one in Canada,” said Ruth. “Many continuing education programs are geared towards the local or Ontario workforce. What makes this unique is that it’s geared towards the national workforce in public health organizations. Faculty from over seven universities and colleges across Canada and public health nurses in practice are developing the curriculum. Public health nurses from across Canada will be teaching it as well.”

Nurses who complete the new Public Health Nursing program will be amongst the first in Canada with the nationally recognized credentials offered to graduates.

“The hope is that the workplaces will see nurses with this education as a preferred employee,” said Ruth. “It would benefit nurses moving into public health nursing employment and potentially reduce orientation within the workplace because they will be better prepared. It also better prepares them to get their national certification in community health nursing and potentially moving forward into a Master’s program and PhD.”

Nurses and students who are interested in learning more about the program can visit the Public Health Nursing program page, or contact Mohawk College’s Continuing Education Health and Nursing area at cehealth [at]