Quote from RNqwerty
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!
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.