Pathway to International/Global Public Health

  1. Hi nurses,

    I'm currently an ER RN/BSN who is looking to move out of the hospital setting and into global public health. I have a background of working in three different (developed) countries, including Saudi Arabia, where I developed an interest in working with different cultures. I'm having difficulty planning a pathway into this field of interest. I've seen various MPH and Masters in International Public Health, but I'm unaware of how I could utilise this postgrad into an actual job in the developing world field. Is volunteer nursing the way to leverage myself into an opportunity, after I have the advanced degree? My areas of interest would be either women's health, communicable diseases, health education. Looking to move away from emergency acute care over the next 3-5 years.

    Thanks
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  2. 9 Comments

  3. by   SiwanRN
    I am in the same boat, except I am employed in public health already in the US and am working on an MPH degree now. These are some of the options that I am planning to explore once I am done with my MPH, as an MPH seems to be a very valuable commodity for nurses trying to get in this field:

    US AID Global Health Fellows Partnership:
    Global Health Fellows II | Global Health Fellows Program II

    International Medical Corps
    International Medical Corps - International Medical Corps

    CDC Global Health
    CDC - Global Health - Jobs Overseas - US Citizens

    Partners in Health
    Partners In Health

    Global Health Delivery
    GHDonline
    | Connecting our members with evidence and expertise


    World Health Organization:
    WHO | Opportunities for international work on nursing and midwifery in WHO

    Peace Corps Global Health Service Partnership:
    Global Health Service Partnership

    Good luck to you!
  4. by   SiwanRN
  5. by   knight-
    Thank you for the list of options above, I really appreciate it as I am also looking in the global nursing direction in my career.
  6. by   RNqwerty
    Hi SiwanRN,

    Thanks for the information. I will do some research into these organisations. What I left out is that I have a very young family at home, so a lot of these goals are definitely on hold for a few more years. Do you know much about Medical Reserve Corps? I wandered if that might be a start to volunteer with them locally. I am also still trying to pinpoint which area of public health I am interested in moving into, before I can properly map out a plan. How do public health nurses work with communicable diseases? Mostly through research and biostats, or in clinic environments with mass vaccinations and outbreak control? Lots of questions to ask!
    Thanks
  7. by   DizzyJon
    Nova Southeastern has a doctorate in health science (DHSc) with a global health track. You would need to complete a master's degree first. They offer a master's in health science as well.
  8. by   adventure_rn
    I used to work in global health before I pursued my career in nursing. You have so many questions that I don't really know where to begin, but here are a few thoughts I had reading your posts (pardon the essay).

    First, I'd be curious to know why specifically you're attracted to global health. Travel? Research? Impact? Knowing that might help you figure out the best avenue.

    Second, you asked 'How do public health nurses work with communicable diseases? Mostly through research and biostats, or in clinic environments with mass vaccinations and outbreak control?' In many cases, the researchers, planners, and epidemiologists developing the projects aren't actually implementing them. You wouldn't necessarily be out vaccinating or teaching; rather, you might be out teaching local nurses to vaccinate or teach. In order to develop a sustainable project with lasting impact, you generally enable local professionals to provide care. There are a handful of projects in which you (the individual) would show up, provide care/education/vaccines/whatever, and then leave; that model works in crisis situations (i.e. MSF, Red Cross), but those projects are falling out of favor in public health because they generally are not sustainable. As a researcher developing and planning a global health intervention, you may work domestically and only do site-visits to your project abroad every couple of months to check in (many of my global health professors conducted research that way). In contrast, as a public health nurse in your country of origin, you would be doing precisely those things (vaccinating, educating, etc.) because it is sustainable for you to stay in your own country and do those things indefinitely.

    Third, some global health masters programs will not consider applicants without at least a couple of years of global health or public health work experience (which is a catch-22, I know). I considered pursuing an MPH in Global Health with a focus in Maternal-Neonatal Care (I'm now a NICU nurse), and a couple of places I talked to said they wouldn't consider my nursing work as 'experience' because it is acute care rather than 'public health.'

    Fourth, if you're interested in epidemiology, the CDC actually does some pretty interesting domestic work that you might enjoy.

    Fifth, If you're interested in traveling to provide medical care, I'm sure MSF would love your ER experience. There's also a Christian non-profit called Mercy Ships which is literally a hospital on a ship that provides free surgery along the African coast; they welcome families and have an on-ship school for school-aged children.

    Sixth, I think it's a great idea to volunteer in public health to get a sense for whether or not it's a good fit for you. Volunteering may also help to you clarify your goals and understand the field a bit better.
  9. by   SiwanRN
    Quote from RNqwerty
    Hi SiwanRN,

    Thanks for the information. I will do some research into these organisations. What I left out is that I have a very young family at home, so a lot of these goals are definitely on hold for a few more years. Do you know much about Medical Reserve Corps? I wandered if that might be a start to volunteer with them locally. I am also still trying to pinpoint which area of public health I am interested in moving into, before I can properly map out a plan. How do public health nurses work with communicable diseases? Mostly through research and biostats, or in clinic environments with mass vaccinations and outbreak control? Lots of questions to ask!
    Thanks
    Adventure RN has some excellent recommendations for you, so I won't repeat those. I can answer a couple of these questions though.

    I am a current volunteer with a local Medical Reserve Corps unit and the Red Cross and I think that is a good way to dip your toe in. Your MRC unit might function as additional boots on the ground in case the you know what hits the fan in your area, but more likely will probably be involved in community preparedness activities and community resilience activities and may do drills a few times a year to practice things like casualty collection points, points of dispensing, or other things that happen in public health emergency and disaster response. You can find your local chapter here: MRC It is a great way to get involved and network with your local public health agencies though.

    As a public health nurse, I work with communicable diseases by providing vaccinations to all ages and doing activities around sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and HIV prevention, linkage to care, and retention in care. While it is not in my job function to do so, other nurses at my health department are more active in the traditional communicable disease control activities of taking report from local clinics or hospitals, contact tracing, working with school nurses and day care centers to help with immunization compliance for school children, and working with the environmental health team on food borne illness outbreaks. I think it's really cool and I'd like to do some of that too, but I don't think I'll get to do that without moving to a different team. We do some research at the health department I work at, but it's through CDC directives and grants. General staff nurses (here anyway) don't crunch a whole lot of biostats...although I probably could do it now, with what I've learned so far in my MPH program. I think it really depends on where you work as to what sort of things you might do with communicable diseases.

    Having a young family might make it difficult to do global health work abroad at this stage in your children's lives unless you are OK being apart from them for long periods of time, but volunteering with your MRC unit or the Red Cross can give you some exposure to the public health side of things in emergency preparedness and response at the local level. You could also call your local health department and ask if you can do a job shadow day with a public health nurse. We do that sometimes where I work.
  10. by   RNqwerty
    Thank you for you response, it was really invaluable reading.

    Firstly, I readily admit that my goals/vision aren't completely clear yet, even to me. Hence I am gathering as much information as I can to really figure out what I want.

    Motivation wise - travel is a really big one. The US is the third country I've been an RN in, I love working in different cultures. Another is the desire to (hopefully) implement longer term changes to communities through education. I feel deep frustration in the ER as I see it as often a bandaid solution to bigger, chronic issues. But at the same time I also love the thrill of ER nursing, and the wide variety of presentations. So I can at least deduce that I will always want to be involved in patient/community interaction.

    Thanks for explaining epidemiology/communicable diseases and how it is handled by public health. "In order to develop a sustainable project with lasting impact, you generally enable local professionals to provide care." - this is definitely the way I see myself working in public health as opposed to just crisis/ disaster relief.

    Mercy Ships is definitely on my radar, and doable if I stay active in ER.

    I'm going to look into volunteering with either Medical Reserve Corps or a local free clinic. At the moment I'm basing my ideas of public health from knowing people who worked in USAID, but to be completely honest I haven't known any actual public health nurses. ER is my world right now.

    Thanks again for your insights.
  11. by   RNqwerty
    Thanks again.

    I'm looking into MRC right now! I think right now that's the very first step. It seems to suit me for where my life is at the moment, and I like the idea of doing community preparedness. I'm just trying to map out a plan for a few years from now when I'll be more ready to move into the global health work sphere.

    Really appreciate all the feedback. Yourself and AdventureRN have really cleared up a lot of vague ideas I had.

    Thanks

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