Backgroundpublic health nursing system, which is an accepted universal model for improvement of the community health, has not yet attained its rightful status in Iran. The present study was conducted to evaluate the perceptions of the pioneers of health care about the public health nursing and the roles that a public health nurse can play in Iran’s health system.Methodsthis is a qualitative study comprising nine participants purposively selected from nurses, nurse educators and physicians in Kashan University of Medical Sciences. Individual semi-structured interviews were used and qualitative content analysis method was used for data analysis.ResultsThree emerged main categories included perceptions about public health nursing, the roles of public health nurses, and barriers to establishing public health nursing. Additionally, five main roles were defined for a public health nurse. These involved the gatekeepers of the health system, direct continual care, health monitoring and disease prevention, health educator and health promoter. The disease oriented health system and the policy makers’ viewpoints were also proved to be the main barriers to establishing public health nursing.ConclusionThe study showed the positive attitudes of the front line health team about public health nursing. The five emerging roles, if established, may facilitate achieving the global objective of health for all. Efforts are needed to encourage policy-makers decide on this issue.