Monday, November 24, 2008

So, What Does A Public Health Nurse Do, Anyway?

This is a question that has already been posed to me several times, and coming up with answers helps me to define what it is I'm actually supposed to accomplish in my new job.

Public health nursing has a long and illustrious history which I will not illustrate here, but in terms of my new position, there are a number of things for which I am directly responsible:

-Tuberculosis case management: I closely monitor and follow any cases of active or latent tuberculosis in my community, assuring that patients take their medications as prescribed and follow up with the regional TB clinic as required.

-Emergency preparedness: it is my job to actually make sure that our town has protocols and plans in place for emergency preparedness, whether it be for natural disasters, terrorist attacks, pandemic illness, or other public health emergencies. I will cooperate with other regional agencies and serve as coordinator of our local Medical Reserve Corps.

-Immunization clinics: I will hold monthly immunization clinics for immigrants and other citizens in need of urgent immunizations. Influenza clinics are also an important part of our work in the late Autumn and early Winter.

-Infectious disease surveillance and investigation: I am responsible to track, report, and investigate infectious and communicable diseases in our community.

-Resources and referrals: I will provide the general public with resources, referrals and advice vis-a-vis medical issues, psychosocial issues, and other needs as they arise.

-Employee wellness: on some level, I am supposed to provide employee wellness resources for employees of our town. I'm not sure what this is supposed to look like, and only so much can happen in thirty hours each week. Still, I see this as a potentially interesting aspect of the job if there's any time to actually do it.

There is so much to learn and so much to know. Infectious disease surveillance in general is an enormous area of expertise and I feel ill-prepared to take it on.

The learning curve is indeed quite steep, but in exchange for my own sunny office, a great cafe next door, and excellent health insurance, I think I made the right choice.
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