Could Public Health be my niche?

  1. Hello. I've been working acute care for the past 6 years, and am seriously considering leaving nursing altogether. I'm burned out on the fast pace and stress of working the floors. I'm tired of shift work and working holidays.I feel I have no time or resources to educate my patients. I'm tired of missed breaks & overtime, being the secretary & custodian...despite the excellent pay.

    I am considering two career options- going into education (not nursing but public schools) or possibly Public Health nursing. I am looking for a position where I can utilize my love of education, whether in nursing or not. I do have my BSN/PHN cert., but no actual public health experience. I am also going to complete my K-12 teaching certificate this year, so I might try my hand at teaching school children. But I keep wondering if Public Health is the one niche I overlooked?

    I would need orientation & training. There are PHN positions available in a neighboring county, but I am thinking of asking to do a job shadow first. Is this a good idea? This is my last ditch attempt at even considering staying in nursing. I love the idea of promoting health, but I feel so disillusioned with my own experience as an RN. Are there any books or websites that public health RNs can recommend? How does Public Health compare to acute care nursing? I am not afraid of hard work, I just want to feel like I am not killing myself in the process. I want to feel like my work is meaningful as well. Thanks for any comments you may have.
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  2. 18 Comments

  3. by   orrnlori
    You know, I've thought about this as well. But everytime I think about it I think of the clientele that comes with it and I just don't think it's something I want to do. Either that or I've got misconceptions about what a public health nurse does. I envision it as dealing mostly with the low-socioecomic strata of our population. Which means fighting ingnorance, patients' poor decision making abilities, government bureacracy, etc, etc, etc. I already do that at a university hospital, you know, the frequent flyers, 12 year olds giving birth, people starting their barb-i-ques with gasoline, and the always reliable guy that drinks a case of beer and decides to take his ATV up the side of a mountain, etc, etc. I think it would just be a different kind of stress. But I'm interesting in learning about it.
  4. by   Genista
    Thanks for the reply, ORRNLori. It turns out there are no openings in my county, but there are tons in a neighboring county (long 1 hr commute though). My hubby worries about me having to go into bad neighborhoods alone. I know Public Health has different departments & roles. I just don't want to take a job w/o knowing what I'm getting into. The pay in my area isn't bad, with M-F 9a-5p hours. I am thinking of doing some job shadow just to check it out. Like I mentioned in my post, I've had it with the hospital setting. I'll be watching to see if my home county has some openings as well. It doesn't seem so bad if it's in your own county. The commute aspect does seem like a drawback.
  5. by   kathicchc
    Public health offers a wide variety of opportunities beyond your local health department's district nursing programs. Currently bioterrorism initiatives, which we hoped would support the repair of the nation's public health infrastructure, has had the opposite effect on local health departments. Try networking with your state's chapter of the American Public Health Association--most have a nursing section.

    You sound like a great candidate for your state's Healthy Child Care initiative for the development of Child Care Health Consultants. See http://www.healthychildcare.org/ I have been a child care health consultant for a large local health department for 17 years. I still look forward to going to work! No two days are alike. One day I was meeting with representatives of the governor's staff to talk about the development of a statewide child care health consultation system, and the next day I was teaching staff of an infant room to collect samples for giardia testing. Give it some thought.
  6. by   Genista
    Kathicchc-
    Thanks for the suggestion! I haven't heard of that position before. I will definately look into it.
  7. by   stnurse83
    Hi! I feel like I'm an angel from God sent to you. My mother is an RN of over 30 years who wished she would have been a history teacher. She has been a public health nurse for 20 something years. I'm her daughter and I have heard everything she has been through as a public health nurse my whole life. She is so ready to retire and never look back. I can't even explain to you all the crap she takes. I know other nurses do too, but these people she has to deal with all the time are the most rude, mean, ect... (can't say what I want to say). You say you have a love for educating people, well this is not the kind of educating you are thinking about. If you try to tell them how to do anything or even make a suggestion about what ever it is going on, (which will blow your mind and make you want to hug your children) they will tell you to shut-up and threaten you within an inch of your life. My mom is required to tell these people their options, and they think she is being nosy or not respecting them in someway. They are the ones coming their to get treatment and they just don't realize that its protocall. They are not the smartest and can really hurt her . She learned a long time ago not to "educate" them too much. If you want to teach people you will not get to teach very much in this field. She has been the boss at this health department for a very long time and gets paid very little. How little-30 something thousand a year. The kind of people that comes in is so rude to the office workers that they still wind up in tears, after all the years they have been there. She went through nursing school and I guess kind of wasted it because she didn't want to work weekends or holidays no more. She ended up starting a family and having three kids. I'm the youngest. She hated leaving us on christmas eve and christmas day so she put up with that place. You also don't want to go to the patients home either. My mom would end up driving so far in a very bad place. My dad would have to leave work and meet her to ensure her safety when she would get into trouble.
    Last edit by stnurse83 on Sep 16, '04
  8. by   Genista
    Stnurse83-Thank you for the heads up. I'm am so sorry to hear that your mom had such an unrewarding experience. I appreciate your efforts to save me from experiencing the same heartache as your mom. However, despite all the warning, I am still going to pursue a career in public health nursing; I will tell you why...

    It has been my experience that even in the hospital setting (which I have worked in for several years now) I have been threatened, cursed at, and told my help wasn't needed. Unfortunately, I think with any type of customer relations job, there is some degree of that. I know it is not something you can escape even as a history teacher (your mom's dream job) because I have volunteered in the schools and seen the same angry violence and attitudes that you speak of. It comes with the territory of working with the public.

    I know that working with the people of the lower socioeconomic levels can be HARD, because life is HARD for them. Because they are poor, often uneducated, and have to struggle to get by in life- they have problems much bigger than some of us who were brought up in more fortunate circumstances.They are angry at life in general.This is not the glamourous part of the job. And perhaps I will run into this too, and perhaps I will feel as your mom did, but maybe not.

    I know that my experience working on different units in the hospital has been extremely different. Some units were much nicer to work on than others, yet they were in the same hospital! Sometimes it is the staff that you work with, along with your own "match" with the role of the position you are filling that makes a job more enjoyable.

    Thank you kindly for your response, stnurse83. I know it came from the heart. However, I am willing to take my chances, as public health just really interests me. I am very interested in approaching nursing from a prevention and case management approach, working from a community perspective, and utilizing my clinical skills, teaching techniques and Spanish skills. I am ready to give it a whirl, and very excited too! I will never know until I try! It might be the perfect match for me. Wish me luck! Good luck to you also in whatever career goals you choose to pursue.

    Kona









    Quote from stnurse83
    Hi! I feel like I'm an angel from God sent to you. My mother is an RN of over 30 years who wished she would have been a history teacher. She has been a public health nurse for 20 something years. I'm her daughter and I have heard everything she has been through as a public health nurse my whole life. She is so ready to retire and never look back. I can't even explain to you all the crap she takes. I know other nurses do too, but these people she has to deal with all the time are the most rude, mean, ect... (can't say what I want to say). You say you have a love for educating people, well this is not the kind of educating you are thinking about. If you try to tell them how to do anything or even make a suggestion about what ever it is going on, (which will blow your mind and make you want to hug your children) they will tell you to shut-up and threaten you within an inch of your life. My mom is required to tell these people their options, and they think she is being nosy or not respecting them in someway. They are the ones coming their to get treatment and they just don't realize that its protocall. They are not the smartest and can really hurt her . She learned a long time ago not to "educate" them too much. If you want to teach people you will not get to teach very much in this field. She has been the boss at this health department for a very long time and gets paid very little. How little-30 something thousand a year. The kind of people that comes in is so rude to the office workers that they still wind up in tears, after all the years they have been there. She went through nursing school and I guess kind of wasted it because she didn't want to work weekends or holidays no more. She ended up starting a family and having three kids. I'm the youngest. She hated leaving us on christmas eve and christmas day so she put up with that place. You also don't want to go to the patients home either. My mom would end up driving so far in a very bad place. My dad would have to leave work and meet her to ensure her safety when she would get into trouble.
  9. by   RN123456789
    Quote from kathicchc
    Public health offers a wide variety of opportunities beyond your local health department's district nursing programs. Currently bioterrorism initiatives, which we hoped would support the repair of the nation's public health infrastructure, has had the opposite effect on local health departments. Try networking with your state's chapter of the American Public Health Association--most have a nursing section.

    You sound like a great candidate for your state's Healthy Child Care initiative for the development of Child Care Health Consultants. See http://www.healthychildcare.org/ I have been a child care health consultant for a large local health department for 17 years. I still look forward to going to work! No two days are alike. One day I was meeting with representatives of the governor's staff to talk about the development of a statewide child care health consultation system, and the next day I was teaching staff of an infant room to collect samples for giardia testing. Give it some thought.
    First of all how would one get hierd for such a position? And second would working as a nurse in 3 different child care settings be considered public health nursing?
  10. by   Quickbeam
    kona2: you might want to look beyond a strictly PHN definition. I'm a community health nurse, for a state agency. I create health policy for a large population. I do some case management, some legislative work, a lot of teaching, public speaking and community outreach. I love it, and it comforts me to know I can do this job through to retirement, even in a wheelchair if I had to!

    Please do know that these types of jobs tend to pay considerably less than hospital nursing jobs. I took a 10K pay cut, which I've since recovered in raises. For me, the low stress of this job is worth ten times that but many nurses find it impossible to consider any pay cuts.
  11. by   RN123456789
    Just to have less stress would be worth the pay cut. Not to mention, not having to work weekends and holidays!!!!!!!! :hatparty:
  12. by   Genista
    quickbeam- thanks for the suggestion. i am open to new ideas. the problem is, i don't know how to find such jobs. my state's website lists only prision nursing, veterans' homes, and state mental hospital openings. none of these appeal to me right now. where did you find such a fabulous community nursing job? how did you hear about it? even a straightforward phn job seems hard to come by in my area...many months will pass with nary an opening. i can't move, as my husband wants to stay where we live now (close to our families.) i would love to branch out and try something new, but am finding it tough to find available positions. the allnurses website doesn't have any jobs that match that for my state, and i have also been reading nurseweek and checking various job boards online. can you recommend any journals or websites that might help me find community health jobs, public health jobs, etc? your job sounds so interesting! i would appreciate any suggestions you may have. thanks again.

    kona

    Quote from quickbeam
    kona2: you might want to look beyond a strictly phn definition. i'm a community health nurse, for a state agency. i create health policy for a large population. i do some case management, some legislative work, a lot of teaching, public speaking and community outreach. i love it, and it comforts me to know i can do this job through to retirement, even in a wheelchair if i had to!

    please do know that these types of jobs tend to pay considerably less than hospital nursing jobs. i took a 10k pay cut, which i've since recovered in raises. for me, the low stress of this job is worth ten times that but many nurses find it impossible to consider any pay cuts.
  13. by   wonderbee
    I did a one-day quickie rotation at the local health department just last week. Florida is a border state and I think the biggest and most distressing drawback is the language barrier. We have a large criole population, spanish speaking, guatamalan populations. We get lots of migrant farm workers. I watched a newborn with thrush come in and the doctor tried to give instructions to the mom but the mom spoke not a word of English. The doctor did her best to use her disjointed spanish but I don't think the mother knew what to do when she left.

    Still, the people who are working there in the health department that I spoke to, without exception, LOVE their work. It would mean a very substantial paycut versus the hospital setting but the retirement would be good.
  14. by   Quickbeam
    Kona2: My suggestion is to get on any and every subscription service your state has for state government jobs. It may be by mail or on-line. Most states have one single "official" way of posting all jobs, be they janitors or pharmacists. You can try to call your state's office of employee relations (or whatever they call it ) and make sure you know what you need.

    I advise taking a long , patient run at this. You may have to read bizarre job listings for a while. I subscribed to my state listings for 10 years before I saw my current job. Also, many states have quirky interview processes. It helps to apply for a few jobs to see how the process works.

    My role is different (and one of a kind in my state) but I've met hundreds of RNs in similar jobs. Sometimes it is right place right time, other times it is a particular skill set. These jobs can also be competitive....50 RNs applied and half had MSNs (I don't but I know sign language and had Occ Health experience, which they wanted).

    Most nurses have a hard time thinking of competing for a job but a lot of the Comm Health/PHN jobs can be sought after. It helps to work on your interview skills and your ability to convince that you are the best candidate! Do remember though, the best nurse in the world will not get the job if he/she doesn't follow through on the application process. Most states are pretty rigid with their rules.

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