Public Health Residency Programs

Julianna Manske, MSN, RN, OCN

The field of public health is evolving as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, navigate the political arena that affects public health work and communities, and work beyond traditional public health services toward the concept of Public Health 3.0.1 As such, a system that supports a thriving, engaged public health workforce must be identified and developed. 

Nurse residency programs have been a long-established mechanism to increase staff confidence, job satisfaction, and retention in hospitals while decreasing organizational costs.2 In fact, based on the quality and quantity of evidence, the Institute of Medicine (National Academy of Medicine) recommended that nurse residency programs be expanded across all practice settings.

Nurse residency programs in public health, however, remain rare. In recent years, several public health organizations and states have developed programs to support their incoming nursing staff. San Diego, California, Shelby County, Tennessee, a nonprofit organization in Colorado, the state of Virginia, and the state of Minnesota have each developed a public health nurse residency program that supports incoming public health nurses in a specific department, specialty area, or geographical area. 

The New to Public Health Residency Program is the first nationwide program designed to effectively transition all new public health professionals into their current and future roles in public health. The program is comprised of four main components (1) 12 online learning sessions that offer up to 75 continuing education credits upon successful completion of each session, (2) 12 virtual synchronous discussions, (3) peer and mentor support, and (4) completion of an evidence-based or quality improvement project. Implemented in September 2021, the program has accepted 99 residents from 12 states into four cohorts as of July 2022. The early evaluation showed improvements in self-assessed competency and job satisfaction from residents participating in the program and program support from residents’ supervisors/managers. 

New public health professionals may benefit from a residency program to increase their confidence and competence in public health practice; however, other programs are needed to (1) entice students to become interested in public health and (2) support veteran staff. Engaging students in public health work early could help pique their interest in a career in public health and start developing a better understanding of public health work. Other programs are needed to support veteran public health staff. While many trainings exist, they are located across multiple platforms and can be time-consuming to sift through. It can also be difficult to stay abreast of emerging topics while managing an increasing amount of day-to-day work. An organized program that is easy to access and available could benefit veteran public health staff.

What ideas do you have to engage students and support the public health workforce in general? Add a comment below to share your thoughts, and let’s connect with each other! All innovations start with an idea, and it’s up to us to bring them to fruition. 

References 

1.U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS], Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. (2016). Public health 3.0: A call to action to create a 21st century public health infrastructure. https://www.healthypeople.gov/sites/default/files/Public-Health-3.0-White-Paper.pdf 

2. Letourneau RM, Fater KH. Nurse Residency Programs: An integrative Review of the Literature. Nurs Educ Perspect. 2015;36(2):96-101. doi:10.5480/13-1229

3. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine. The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. National Academies Press (US); 2011. Accessed November 24, 2021. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209880/

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