Tag Archives: undergraduate

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.

Tayna T.: Finding an Internship You’re Passionate About

Finding an Internship You’re Passionate About

By Tayna T.

Tayna at her desk at UW EH&S

I am interning at the UW Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) department as a compliance analyst. UW Environmental Health and Safety department is responsible for providing a safe work place on campus by identifying the hazards, evaluating the risk associated with the work environment, and developing preventative procedures and policies that are in compliance with federal and state regulations. In addition, EH&S offers safety training for UW employees and students. Besides overseeing the occupational safety program at the UW, EH&S also administers programs pertaining to environmental hygiene such as hazardous waste and recycling. My supervisor is the assistant director of the occupational health and safety unit within the EH&S department. People I work with are the industrial hygienist, the accident prevention hygienist, fleet manager, and more.

I will develop a safety program for golf carts and low speed vehicles (LSV) by benchmarking data, visiting different departments at UW, and writing a white paper. I will have to research and summarize the golf cart safety programs of universities across the nation, focusing on elements such as program ownership, training procedures, and maintenance. By learning how programs at other universities operate, I hope to develop a good program that includes all successful aspects of a golf cart safety program. I will also visit several departments on campus to collect data about the golf carts and LSV. The data will help me assess the current issues at the UW and address the problems pertinent to the UW in my white paper.

I’m not familiar with regulations regarding golf carts and LSV. Therefore, I’m excited about learning how to amalgamate what I read in those regulatory documents and the data I collect into a paper–one that can convince the stakeholders to adopt the program. The thing that I’m thrilled about is also the thing makes me nervous. I have never worked at an occupational health and safety department before, let alone written any important document. In addition, I have only taken two environmental health classes in my major, and none of the two classes emphasizes employee safety.

I saw a job opening one day on a UW work study website while I was browsing to look for new job openings, since my current one had ended. Then I saw that the UW EH&S department was looking for a compliance analyst intern to work on developing a golf cart and LSV safety program. As an environmental health and occupational safety major, I could not ignore this opportunity. I applied but did not think that I would get hired because I had no experience working in an occupational safety field. All I had was my passion and fourteen plus years of education, along with communication skills I am not one hundred percent confident of. Putting aside my pessimism, I applied. The person whom I contacted, my future supervisor, asked me to come I for an interview. I was hired afterward!

At the UW EH&S, each division has its own corner. For instance, the occupational health and safety division that I work at is located at a corner with four offices and a meeting room. The structure of the floor conveniently organizes the composition of the department as a whole. It feels as though I have my own group of people within the department on whom I can rely. Everyone I met was friendly and helpful. For example, if my co-workers find useful information on golf cart and LSV regulations or information that related to the project I am working on, they inform me. My supervisor also helps me tremendously by showing me how to find and use the correct information. More importantly, she guides me through my first time working as a compliance analyst intern.

Nick M.: My Experience as a Food Lab Intern

My Experience as a Food Lab Intern

By Nick M.

Nick M. in the lab.

This summer I interned at the Department of Health Public Health Laboratories working in the Food Lab. My main focus has been assisting with the Vibrio Project, which monitors levels of the bacterium Vibrio Parahaemolyticus during the summer when the water is warm enough for the bacteria to proliferate.

When I first started my internship, I was most excited about gaining practical knowledge/experience in my field of study. I had taken most of the related classes and felt that I had at least an idea of what was going on, but I had no hands-on experience outside of classroom labs. The internship program has really helped me to understand what working in a lab is like. I was able to observe work in other labs as well as in my own. The program also gave me the opportunity to apply my learning from class towards a tangible product. While this is just an example of the type of work I could do in the future, it was very useful for me to experience it for myself. I also appreciated talking to my coworkers and hearing about what the experiences that brought them to the lab.

While I do feel that I took away a lot of practical experience from this program, the takeaway that seems most valuable is the connections I made throughout. At work, it was almost like having a career panel that you went back to everyday. Everyone in the lab was very eager to share their career path and advice, which gave me free reign with all of my questions. I found it extremely helpful to hear all of this information and build these relationships so that I can continue to learn from them and ask questions in the future. After this experience, I feel more prepared, and at least a little more comfortable in finding a career path that best fits my goals in the near future.

Ikwon J: The Role of the Industrial Hygiene Intern

The Role of the Industrial Hygiene Intern

By Ikwon J.

Ikwon in his personal protective equipment (PPE)

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), industrial hygienists use monitoring and analytical methods to measure worker exposure from environmental hazards and apply strategies including engineering, work practice controls, and other methods to control potential health hazards. This description describes the exact tasks I am performing as the Industrial Hygiene (IH) intern for the City of Seattle.

Primary tasks as the IH intern include understanding the exposure of workers to environmental hazards such as noise, air, or dust. First, a goal of noise monitoring is to prevent hearing loss of workers because extensive exposure to loud noises can negatively affect hearing and may cause hearing loss. Therefore, IH personnel try to reduce the exposure to protect hearing of workers.

Second, air monitoring is conducted, mostly for office workers because they spend eight to ten hours in offices every day. Therefore, poor indoor air quality can be very hazardous. For example, the presence of molds, high concentration of carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide, and dust can be issues regarding indoor air quality. Thus, the industrial hygienist uses analytical methods to detect health hazards in air and applies methods to improve indoor air quality to promote health of office workers.

Lastly, dust sampling may be conducted for indoor air quality for office workers, but it is more focused on protecting construction workers. For instance, silica dust is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other materials and is classified as the human lung carcinogen. Because silica dust is very dangerous and commonly exists in many construction sites, IH personnel monitor silica exposure of workers, and they apply control methods to reduce health hazards.

After the sampling, the industrial hygienist writes a report about findings from the samplings and recommendations to protect health of workers from environmental hazards in work sites. The recommendations may include an engineering control to remove a source of hazard or advising safer work practices.

In conclusion, the Industrial Hygiene tasks are a mixture of field work and office work. On some days, the industrial hygienist conducts sampling and monitoring in the field, but some days they need to stay at in their offices to write reports and perform office tasks as the industrial hygienist. Because the tasks are well balanced between field and office, the career of industrial hygienist is interesting and enjoyable.

Jamie O: About My Internship At The Hawaii Department of Health

About My Internship At The Hawaii Department of Health

By Jamie O.

When I first began my internship at the Environmental Microbiology Section, I spoke to my supervisor about the specific plans she had for me.  Now that I am at the end of my internship, I can say that I definitely had the opportunity not only to participate in the tasks she had prepared, but so much more.

For the Vibrio spp. validation studies, I prepared samples by first scrubbing away debris from the shellfish shells.

 

My supervisor’s primary plans for me involved learning how to process water and food samples with EPA- and FDA-approved standard operating procedures, and I have definitely gained a greater understanding of these procedures from being mentored throughout each step of each process.  I observed how media was made for the different analyses, and then saw how the media is used for each type of analysis.  Throughout the internship, I saw how the microbiologists in the lab receive the samples and process drinking water, beach water, dairy, and shellfish samples.  Not only did I observe, but also my supervisor and the microbiologists in the lab were so gracious to allow for me to get hands-on experience, like helping to set up for the analyses.  I even had the incredible opportunity to go to Hawaiian fishponds where the shellfish samples were obtained for the lab.  In addition, my supervisor allowed me to get involved with Vibrio spp. validation studies with shellfish samples by working hands-on with real-time PCR.

My advice to future environmental health interns is to be attentive and inquisitive throughout the length of the internship.

I then shucked mostly diploid and triploid oysters with bone cutters and shucking knife.

In order to successfully complete such tasks, I made sure to pay close attention when being taught to ensure that the tasks being entrusted to me were going to be carried out in the best way possible.  Also, in the lab it is imperative to observe carefully when watching lab techniques during the processing of samples in order to truly understand how those in the lab work so hard to ensure the quality of their test results for public safety.  By refining these skills, future interns will be able to make the most out of their experiences and truly learn and be of use to their coworkers.

I’m grateful to everyone I had the honor of working with for making my summer internship such an amazing experience.  They encouraged me to get as much hands-on experience as I could, and they were so patient in teaching me about what they do best.  Having the opportunity to intern at the SLD in the area of environmental health that I am passionate about with such a dynamic group of people made my summer more than worthwhile, and I am excited for future interns to have such an enriching summer as well.

After decanting away the shellfish liquor, I assisted with blending the shellfish meats prior to analysis.

Meet Our Interns: Ali E.

My Internship with the Indian Health Service

By Ali E.

This summer I’m completing my internship with the Office of Environmental Health and Engineering with the Indian Health Service. The Indian Health Service is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that supplies health care services to federally recognized tribes. I’m stationed in a field office in Parker, AZ, which is located in the western side of the state. Over the course of the summer, I’m going to assist two Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) in my office with everything that they have on their plate, as well as work on my personal project regarding pool inspections. Our field office covers a large geographical area that serves five different tribes scattered throughout western Arizona, eastern California, and southern Nevada. I also have the opportunity to travel to another field office and the district office to work with EHOs that have different specializations and work with different tribes.

I’m really excited for the work I’m going to do this summer because the Environmental Health department tackles almost everything that a standard health department would manage. Looking over my work plan for the summer, I’m going to be getting exposure to vector control, food safety, injury prevention, and institutional health. I know that I want to continue on to complete a master’s degree, but I’m unsure about what specific area of Environmental Health I want to specialize in. I’m hoping that this internship will help me determine what areas of Environmental Health I want to pursue, as well as give me a better idea of what I want in a long term career.

As with anything new, it’s hard to come in to a brand new setting not knowing what your role is going to be, how you’re going to fit into the existing dynamics, and if the knowledge you already have is going to be sufficient. But from my first week and a half I can attest that as long as you are enthusiastic, hardworking, and willing to put in effort and ask questions, that you can be successful in any new setting.

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.

 

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.