Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Nurse Professional Advisory Committee

Our Current Presence

Diversification to Meet the Health Care Challenges of Today

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the government’s principal healthcare agency, is dedicated to protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially to the underserved. The U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) has programs dedicated to: the control and prevention of disease; conduct of biomedical research focusing on new treatment and prevention modalities; protecting the nation against unsafe food, drugs, and medical devices; improvement of mental health and the management of substance abuse; expanding health care resources; health systems strengthening, and providing primary health care to individuals in medically underserved areas and those with special needs. Eleven agencies comprise the HHS: Administration on Aging; Administration for Children and Families; Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; the Food and Drug Administration; Health Resources and Services Administration; Indian Health Service; the National Institutes of Health; and, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Federal Public Health Service Nurses serve in virtually all of the HHS Operating Divisions and are involved in all aspects of health improvement activities, operating both independently and in concert with other professional disciplines. Federal Public Health Service Nurses are also assigned to other government agencies, including the Department of Justice (Bureau of Prisons), Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security (U.S Coast Guard, ICE Health Service Corps), Department of Transportation, Department of Energy (Environmental Protection Agency), Department of the Interior (National Park Service), and Department of Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

The mission of the PHS is to “Protect, Promote, and Advance the Health and Safety of our Nation” while contributing to the systems strengthening of health care world-wide. There are approximately 4,000 civil service nurses and approximately 1,570 Commissioned Corps nurse officers who function as FPHSNs, working in diverse settings such as clinical, applied public health, mental health, program and policy development, regulatory control, education, research, and administration. FPHSN represents three unique nursing groups: 1) Civil Service nurses, federal employees of HHS, 2)Tribal nurses employed by independent American Indian and Alaskan Native Tribal Nations and communities and 3) Commissioned Corps nurse officers in HHS and non-HHS. As part of the largest public health system in the world, FPHSNs are involved in a diversified arena of jobs that include (See Figure2.0):

  • Direct patient care to prevent disease, maintain, promote and/or restore health and educate patients and providers in a safe environment. Clinical work is practiced in such places as government hospitals, correctional facilities, Indian reservations, and immigration facilities throughout the country.
  • Organizing and applying scientific, administrative, medical, nursing and other health-related principles and practices to protect and improve the health and quality of life of individuals, families, and populations. This is evident through the efforts of health education, applying an evidence-based approach to promoting healthy behaviors, lifestyles, accessibility to quality healthcare and health services, safe environments and products that impact health, and detecting, monitoring and preventing disease and adverse health conditions, as well as supervisory and consultative nursing expertise to federal, State, local and Tribal government agencies. 
  • Ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, cosmetic products and the food supply. As a part of this process expert advice and consultation is provided on clinical, regulatory, and scientific matters ranging from research and development to scientific review of these products to determine their safety and effectiveness for use by the public. 
  • Performing inspections and other enforcement actions, ensuring that issues regarding special populations, such as children and elderly are considered and addressed. 
  • Using nursing skills to research and identify solutions to the many health-related problems that face our nation including obesity, substance abuse, maternity and fetal mortality and morbidity, health care for underserved populations and those in correctional facilities, the spread of infectious diseases either by man or nature, and educating the nation.
  • Participating in policy development and decision making.
  • Performing vital technical, administrative, and staff support roles representing the unique perspective of nursing throughout the operating divisions of DHHS and other federal, State, local and Tribal government agencies.

Collectively, for more than 200 years, FPHSNs have met their responsibilities to improve the health of our nation and their contributions have been significant. In collaboration with other healthcare professionals, they improve the quality of America’s healthcare system, protect and advance the health of the American people, and, improve the organization and delivery of health services by serving in various roles in federal, state, territorial, local and tribal organizations.


Page Last Modified on 12/17/2015

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