"This was a very practical field experience in an organization that provides planning and services relevant to public health. The exposure to an organizational and community context for public health activities was phenomenal and informative in that it provided a concrete context for the classroom learning I have experienced to date. "
Mary Raukar – MPH in Health Services (EXDP)
Practicum Site: Minnesota Department of Health
Reflecting on the practicum experience itself, the opportunity to work with and learn from these amazing and committed maternal-child health public health nurses was an enlightening and humbling experience for which I will be forever grateful. I truly value and appreciate their willingness, interest, and enthusiasm to work with me and to share their experiences and insights. My supervisors provided the education and support necessary for me to be able to establish an open rapport in working with the MCH nurses and within their office. The feedback I have received from those who participated has been overwhelmingly positive – most significantly, participants have been grateful to have had the opportunity to share their experiences and to discuss their hopes for their professional practice and ongoing development and for their communities and clients. I have learned about the value of reflective practice as a method for ones personal and professional evaluation and identification of opportunities for continued development. It is an important tool for acknowledging and celebrating ones contributions to her/his profession, work environment, and community – and, also, provides time to consider new ideas.
The largest challenges I faced were time and the geographical distance between myself and the participants. Time was challenging because the majority of the nurses work in under-resourced areas and "wear several hats" at their sites. Additionally, I personally am juggling requirements on my time as a resident in Canada, as a MPH student, and as a dementia care advocate/consultant. Thanks to the quarterly scheduled regional MCH meetings, I was able to meet with most of the nurses face-to-face and schedule times to talk via phone easily, but for those who did not attend the meetings – phone-tag and email to-and-fro took up quite a bit of time. Therefore, the project timeline extended longer than initially anticipated. Also hindering time were continuous technological glitches – my personal computer has been malfunctioning over this past year, which resulted in loss of work requiring extended efforts over the course of this practicum.
This experience has impacted my personal and professional development in some unexpected ways. I found through this work that I have a keen interest in contributing efforts professionally to maternal/family mental health issues which impact child development. This practicum experience prompted me to continue working on and researching this topic through a subsequent course in environmental health. The MDH NE-District will be presenting its first district professional development conference in late Spring of 2009, and they have invited me to present on this topic.
Significant learning for me took place as I developed a better understand of the historical trauma that has impacted the American Indian population not only in Minnesota but also across the US and Canada. From conversations with several of the public health nurses and through my literature and web review, I am and my clinical practice are now more informed and will make continued effort to develop cultural competence.
During my time working with the MDH NE-District, I was invited to attend a mediation that one of my supervisors was doing for a local public health office and an area home health agency. I had never been a part of a formal mediation process before and appreciated the opportunity to attend and learn from the experience.
Through this experience, I began to consider pursuing additional residency training to become board certified as a Community Medicine Specialist in Canada. I was fortunate to have met the District's medical director while doing this practicum. He has been an excellent role model and encouraging.
The practicum experience certainly afforded me the opportunity to develop and apply several of the competencies identified as those that tend not to be well developed in the academic setting through required coursework. These competencies include the following: development of leadership and group process / communication / mediation skills, cultural competencies / skills, political awareness, and a greater understanding of organizational behavior from a public health perspective. With regard to development of the universal competencies identified by the University of Washington MPH
This was a very practical field experience in an organization that provides planning and services relevant to public health. The exposure to an organizational and community context for public health activities was phenomenal and informative in that it provided a concrete context for the classroom learning I have experienced to date.