Congrats on the job!
I have been working as a public health nurse at a health department for the past 4-5 months and love it.
I was hired as the STI and backup to family planning nurse. That role includes clinic 2-2.5 days a week, treating contacts for STI's, calling to follow up on STI cases that were diagnosed privately to ensure the patient received treatment and offer anonymous partner notification. In addition, I manage the ADAP program which provides medications to HIV positive patients in our area. Since starting, I was also given the communicable disease piece so I do investigations for things like campylobacter, lyme disease, acute hepatitis and other reportable disease. Then I put the data into a database that the CDC and other organizations use for statistics. I have also taken on updating some of our brochures and joined a committee. Other nurses at my health department manage maternity and the babycare program or work with immunization, which I was oriented to but won't be routinely working.
What I LOVE about my job is: A, My coworkers, all the nurses get along and there is a good team spirit. B, I am always doing something different and have yet to be bored. C, *knock on wood* our patients aren't terminally ill, they can all breathe, and while there have been some hairy moments due to various forms of substance abuse there is not much life or death on a daily basis. D, I have time to be a GREAT nurse. There is lots of time for patient education, I can follow up on patients that concern me, and I can actually advocate for patients. Finally. E, I am learning about a myriad of cultural, socioeconomic, health and social issues. F, the benefits and hours are great.
There are a couple of things I am not thrilled with. A, perhaps it is specific to my health department but it seems like it is very difficult to fire state employees after the probation period. Excellence is not expected, but accepted if you choose to do it. We have one clerk that is consistently very rude to patients, gives incorrect information and does not perform tasks well that has not and probably will not be fired. B, While it is the reason I took the job, remember that the population you are likely to be serving leads very difficult and chaotic lives. It can be draining, make sure your coping skills are in good working order. C, let's be honest, while 12 hour shifts in the hospital are hard, those days off during the week are glorious. D, contacting people about STIs, while important to public health, is tricky. I try my best to maintain confidentiality, but I worry about parents seeing a strange number on their kids phones, abusive boyfriends, and repercussions in already abusive relationships (which are shockingly common, by the way). I've already had my share of angry partners (male and female) and parents calling to scream at me.
Atmosphere really varies based on the office and you will learn yours soon enough. In terms of benefits, I have a good health care plan, life insurance, all state holidays (12 a year!) plus vacation, family personal and 64 hr (!?!) sick leave, 16 hour community service leave, and a boss that will let me go do continued learning and conferences without taking time off as long as I cover my expenses and clinics. I hear that my state is pretty bad about working with people that want to go to graduate school so that might be a problem for me down the road.
Overall, this is the first job in my almost 3 years after graduating where I feel like a NURSE that is HELPING people who could really use excellent, affordable, accessible care delivered in a caring, competent and confidential manner. Best of luck to you!