Tag Archives: Pierce County

Natalia K.: First Impressions From Day One Of My Internship

First Impressions From Day One Of My Internship

By Natalia K.

Workplace:

What struck me most about the workplace on my first day was how big the health department in Tacoma is.  My first day of training, I met another woman who just started working at the health department in the methadone program. She is a counselor who helps people who have drug problems. She was really passionate about what she does, and she was really excited to start working at the health department.

Colleagues:

My first days at this job were very welcoming; I found that my colleagues were very friendly and positive people. They made me feel welcome and wanted to get to know me. I also observed a very friendly atmosphere between the colleagues and their supervisors. My supervisors were also very patient and helpful throughout my training.

Most excited about:

I am most excited about getting the opportunity to work at a health department, not only to see what kinds of jobs are available at the health department, but also to explore the types of people that work in these careers. I am hoping to get the opportunity to see if I would like to work alongside people such as these.

I am looking forward to starting my first real 9-5 job experience, even though it’s only temporary. I am also excited about getting to work with the community of Tacoma as well as getting to learn about other people’s careers in the health department. I am also really excited for the day that I get to shadow another person who works in the health department. During my interview interview, my supervisors said that every intern gets the opportunity to shadow someone else in the health department for a whole workday. This is really a cool opportunity because I will further get to explore other careers in the health department.

Most worried about:

I am most worried about being the new intern, because I feel very young to be working an adult job. I am also worried about making mistakes, or not learning things quickly enough during training.

Kathleen Y.: An Informational Interview with a Food Inspector

An Informational Interview with a Food Inspector

By Kathleen Y.

Kathleen Y. inspecting a pool

I conducted an interview with Amber, an Environmental Health Specialist in the food program at the Pierce County Health Department. My interview was also a dual job shadow, since I had the opportunity to follow her on several food inspections. Throughout the job shadow, we stopped at a few different types of restaurants, including a fast food restaurant, a diner, and a sushi restaurant. It was a really interesting experience to watch Amber at work. She was very much in control and confident in her work, and she was not afraid to ask the difficult questions during her inspections. It felt a little hectic at times as we entered some kitchens during a lunch rush, but Amber was able to do her job efficiently while still being thorough.

Between inspections, I had the chance to ask her a few questions about her professional background. Amber completed her undergraduate degree at Washington State University with a major in biology. She had a diverse number of jobs before starting her position as a food inspector at the health department. She worked as a restaurant manager, as a phlebotomist at a blood bank, and as a clerical employee at the same blood bank. She said a family member informed her of the position at the health department, and she has been working there for the last three years.

When asked about her favorite aspects of her job, Amber said that she enjoys being able to talk to many different types of people while working and not being stuck in an office all day. She also said she enjoys being able to help to improve facilities’ health and safety practices as she encounters many teaching opportunities during her inspections. When asked about the negative aspects of her job, Amber said that she is often met with confrontation during her inspections. During my short time job shadowing her, I myself noticed how restaurant managers and employees could be defensive about some of their practices. Amber said that she has caught restaurant employees in outright lies, some even trying to hide food that they know have been improperly prepared. Although it could be difficult at times, Amber says that she enjoys her work and that her time at the Pierce County Health Department has been an overall positive experience.

Natalia K: 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.