Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

The role of the public nurse

The role of nursing staff in public health

The RCN believes that nursing should be at the heart of minimising the impact of illness, promoting health and helping people to function at home, work, and leisure. Improving public health should be seen as part of all nursing and midwifery roles.

The RCN report: Nurses 4 public health. The value and contribution of nursing to public health in the UK: Final report (2016) looks at the value and contribution of nurses to public health in the UK.

  • Public health is everyone’s responsibility and should be a fundamental part of all nursing roles.
  • Nursing skills are rightly valued as being able to provide meaningful public health interventions across all health and social care settings as part of holistic patient centred care.  

Nursing staff work in almost every stage and setting of health and care, and as such they have an important role across a wide range of public health interventions. Public Health England (PHE) have developed ‘All our Health Framework’ which is a call to action to all health care professionals to use their knowledge, skills and relationships, working with patients and the population to prevent illness, protect health and promote wellbeing. The framework includes resources around a number of different areas to help professionals promote health and wellbeing, support them to understand their responsibilities and point out opportunities that make a difference to population health. The Framework has been developed with colleagues across the UK.

The tool kit ‘Everyday Interactions’ has been developed to help health care professional measure the impact of the work they do and how this impacts on the public’s health.

The revised Public Health Skills and Knowledge Framework sets out the core skills and knowledge for all those working in public health. It is accompanied guidance and examples on how it can be used by individuals, employers and educational providers working in public health.

The Health Careers web site includes information about ‘Roles in Public Health’; many of these are nursing careers. The resource includes advice on the work involved and how to get into these particular specialities and areas of work.

Anyone with an interest in public health can become an FPH Associate for only £52 in the first year. By joining, you will:

  • Contribute to the Faculty of Public Health aim - to ensure that the world’s population achieves, and maintains, its fullest potential for health and well-being
  • Be kept informed of our work, as we quality assure standards, support continuing professional development and campaign on public health issues.
  • Receive a monthly e-bulletin with updates on FPH, wider public health news, and opportunities to get involved via our network groups discussion forums
  • Get priority access to pre-launch copies of FPH publications on public health issues, including climate change, obesity, smoking and alcohol
  • Receive invitations to FPH regional and national events.

For more information click here.

Making Every Contact Count (MECC) is a concept aimed to support public health. The approach behind MECC is to use behavior change techniques with individuals and organisations using the many day to day interactions we all have, to support people making positive changes to their lifestyle. The MECC website developed by Health Education England includes lots of resources and examples of where individual teams and organisations have used the MECC approach successfully. There are further resources and information from the PHE under MECC practical resources.

The Royal College of Midwives report ‘Stepping up to public health’ includes information for midwives and women on the important public health contribution during pregnancy and the first weeks of life.

This resource has been endorsed by:

Faculty of Public Health logo

Nurses 4 public health

Nurses 4 public health

The RCN has been working with members on a series of case studies which help showcase the variety of ways nurses are currently working to improve public health. We are also keen to show how nurses careers develop in public health in a range of specialty areas.

If you would like to submit a case study, please complete this template or if you would like to show your career story please use this template and email it to To fill out the template, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can download here

RCN resource: Leaving no-one behind. The role of the nursing profession in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the UK

Further resource: Nurses for Health Equity: Guidelines for tackling the social determinants of health (2021)

Page last updated - 26/05/2022