Monthly Archives: September 2017

Meet Our Interns: Jamie E.

How I Found My Out-of-State Internship

By Jamie E.

Jame E calibrating the pH meter and taking the pH of media being used for analyses.

When I began to look at internships for over the summer, I made sure to look for opportunities that not only explored my area of interest within environmental health, but also were close to my home in Hawaii.  Since leaving home to go to school on the mainland, I wanted to take the opportunity to become more familiar with the public health issues that are concerning communities in Hawaii, while also exploring my interest in environmental microbiology.  After thinking of where to begin my search for Hawaii internships, I decided to try searching through the State of Hawaii Department of Health website.

As I was exploring through the website I was so excited to see that there was a State Laboratories Division (SLD) on the island of Oahu, and that there was an Environmental Microbiology section.  Though I did not find internships listed, I emailed the supervisor of the Environmental Microbiology section inquiring if there were any undergraduate summer internships available.  I followed my internship advisor’s advice and had also looked at other internships in Washington, but in the back of my mind I knew that if there was an internship at the SLD that it would be my first choice.  I also knew that there was a slim chance of me having the opportunity to work specifically in my area of interest with communities back at home in Hawaii, but I still anxiously waited and hoped that there was a chance.  When I received a reply email, I was thrilled and incredibly grateful to find out that the SLD was willing to take me on as an intern for the summer.

My advice to future environmental health interns is to not be afraid to reach out to organizations conducting work in your area of interest, even if it may seem that there are no internship opportunities available.

State of Hawaii Department of Health State Laboratories Division

If I had not taken the initiative to ask about available internships, I would not have gained the abundance of knowledge and variety of experiences that I have had here at the SLD.  I also would not have been able to work with such a kind and supportive group of people that I did work with at the lab.  For these reasons and many more, I encourage future environmental health studies to take this risk, because it may lead to a truly unforgettable and enriching experience.

 

What I Learned as a Pool Inspector

What I Learned as a Pool Inspector

By: Kathleen Y.

Kathleen Y. inspecting a pool

This summer I have had the pleasure of working at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department as a Water Recreational Facilities Inspector. I visit pools, spas, and spray parks in Pierce county to look for health and safety hazards such as poor water chemistry, inadequate barriers, and damaged equipment. I write a report for each facility at the end of their inspection, and I give them notice of a re-inspection if they do not meet minimum requirements. I also have the power of issuing a fine if the facility fails to fix their violations.

I have had a really good time working as a pool inspector, and I learned a thing or two about what it takes to be a decent inspector along the way. For one, I learned how important it is to talk with the pool operator or facilities manager during -and after- the inspection. They are the ones taking care of the facilities, so they are usually the ones that will be fixing any issues that I find during the inspection. In many cases, the pool operators also have some insight into why the pool may be having certain issues and can often provide an estimate of how long it would take to fix said issues. Talking with someone directly and taking the time to explain concerns usually gets issues fixed and up to code much more quickly.

In addition to communicating with pool operators, I found that is was also really important to talk with my supervisors if I had any questions or concerns. I was trained for about three weeks before I began inspections on my own. There were times where I would jot down questions that I had while out doing inspections so I wouldn’t forget them by the time I was back at the office. My supervisors are nice and helpful folks, and they were always happy to answer my questions. I also had plenty of cases where I had to call a supervisor while I was out in the field, usually in a situation where there was a possible closure violation. In the beginning, I was hesitant to call them when I had a question, but I soon realized that it was the best way to get things done and to get them done right. As obvious as it may seem, the major thing that I learned from working in this position is the importance of good communication, and I know it is a skill that will be important in any future career that I decide to pursue.

 

Meet Our Interns: Natalia

The Skills I Use In My Environmental Health Internship

By Natalia K.

This summer I will be working as an Environmental Health Technician at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health department. My internship is in the Department of Environmental Health, and within the subdivision of Food, Community, and Safety program. For this internship, I will be inspecting pools, spas, and spray parks in the Tacoma-Pierce County area. I will inspect each facility in my assigned area a total of two times during the duration of my internship.

Natalia conducting a pool inspection at her summer internship.

Inspecting pools may sound like an easy job, but it’s no walk in the park. Some skills that are required for this internship are as follows:

  1. Staying organized

This job requires a person who has great organization skills. At each pool inspection, a pool inspector uses an online database provided by the health department to produce a paper inspection report, which states the time and date of inspection, water quality data, and any necessary violations. During the inspection, you have to be able to keep track of certain violations that were found during the inspection. Inspection may be very long, so keeping notes on complicated violations help me complete detailed inspection reports for each pool facility.

  1. Background in chemistry

A strong background in chemistry is a required skill for this internship, especially experience with lab chemistry and good lab technique. At each pool inspection, a set of water quality tests is conducted, which involved many different reagents and chemicals. These tests must be done with precision and accuracy, since the data is important and has the potential to shut down or close a pool.

  1. Being able to learn from your mentors

During inspections there are always new situations that can bring up questions. Having the ability to learn from mistakes and take criticism well is required for this internship, as it helps an inspector to become the best health inspector they can be by learning from their mistakes!

  1. Great communication skills

I would say that good communication skills are the most important skill to this internship. When walking into a pool facility, you need the ability to locate the right person, and introduce yourself and present yourself in a professional manner. You must be confident in your knowledge about pools and be able to ask questions to maintenance staff or pool operators.

  1. Driving skills

My assigned area is a very large portion of Pierce County, which requires me to drive around between each facility to do inspections! Good driving skills and habits are required for this internship.

  1. Passion for public health and loving the outdoors!
  2. Support!

No one is a perfect inspector without practice and help from mentors! This internship required support from my supervisors who taught me what I needed to know about pool maintenance and water chemistry. They also took me out in the field with them to learn the proper way to conduct pool inspections, as well as how to operate the inspection report database which creates the inspection reports to be given to pool operators. My supervisors were also always on call and were available to answer questions if I ever needed help when I was out on my own in the field.

Jueun O: About my Safety Internship

About my Safety Internship

By Jueun O.

In front of my desk at WA L&I

This summer, I have been working as an intern at the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). The Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act is administered by its Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). The purpose of this law is to ensure that Washington’s employers provide their workers with safe and healthy workplaces. L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) has Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs), who conduct inspections to help ensure that employers comply with workplace safety and health rules.  My job as an intern is to assist inspectors with opening and closing conferences, conducting employee interviews, sampling, identifying, and evaluating hazards.  Here in the Region 3 Tacoma office, we have 5 industrial hygienists and 7 safety inspectors. The safety inspectors are those who have specialized in physical hazards or procedural problems such as inadequate machine guards, stair railings, or equipment lockout procedures. Industrial hygienists are those who specialize in occupational health hazards, such as chemical vapors, asbestos, respirator issues, and noise. During these past ten weeks, I have accompanied Region 3 DOSH staff, including industrial hygienists and safety specialists, on field visits to discover any potential hazards within the work-place. I think that this internship is a good opportunity for students who major in environmental health because this position is closely related to the area of studies that we learned in our classes. Through this internship, I was able to learn about numerous sampling techniques, hazardous chemicals used in specific work places, and the skills, knowledge, and abilities necessary to ensure workplace safety.

What I enjoyed most about my internship is being able to complete each assignment in a unique way and having the opportunity to help people keep safe and satisfied with their work environments. I have participated in 8 compliance inspections and 2 samplings so far. It has been a great learning experience to actually put what I learned in class into practical and realistic applications! Working with a variety of different people has given me an opportunity to reflect about how I want to work in the future, which made this internship very helpful for me.