New public health nurse! Help!

Nurses General Nursing



I've been a nurse for a year and a half. My background is long-term care. I recently took on a job at the local health department. I'm the only nurse and there has not been a nurse in this position since December. I'm feeling so overwhelmed, since I have little guidance. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Specializes in ICU/community health/school nursing.

What are your duties? "Public health" is broad. Are you in infectious disease? WIC? STDs? Vaccines?

I was the PHN and manager of a local regional clinic. We ran a vaccine clinic, answered the communicable disease hotline, and were in charge of managing TB screening, treatment, and follow up for two counties.

If your job involves vaccines, get a copy of the CDC's "Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases," AKA the "pink book." CDC has all the chapters as modules on their website. Print out a copy of what's required for admission to school in your state. Learn who the person is at your state/region who manages the vaccine supplies. Buy him/her candy or Starbucks cards because you never know when you'll need a rush shipment of varicella vaccine.

What infectious diseases are prevalent? They'll probably send you to training if you're working with TB. One active TB case in the wrong place (like a school or a gym) may cause you a thousand hours of contact tracing.

Identify providers in your community on whom you can rely; I took a call about rabies at least once a month - someone would get bitten by one of the thousand stray dogs running around. The first rabies vaccine in the ER is covered by the ER visit but the second and third are not. It's a big issue to find that kind of provider in an underserved area.

STDs - CDC also has resources and training. One active case of HIV or chlamydia may cost you 500 hours of contact tracing.

WIC - state and federal guidance; not sure where to tell you to look.

Disaster planning and relief - state and federal guidance. Check FEMA's website.

If you're not sure what you should be doing, ask for a copy of the job description; then you can at least do what you're accountable for. Public health really is a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get!

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