Tag Archives: informational interview

Veda: An Informational Interview with a Health and Environmental Investigator

An Informational Interview with a Health and Environmental Investigator

By Veda.

While interning at Public Health – Seattle & King County, I was fortunate enough to shadow professionals in Environmental Health Services. One of these individuals was Kyla, a Health and Environmental Investigator who mainly focused on complaints regarding on-site sewage systems in King County.

Inspection Process

Kyla explained that her process for inspecting a septic tank begins with someone complaining of an odor, sewage above a drain field, or a report from the tank’s maintainer that the system is not working properly. She also communicates with the complainant about the issue. For our first inspection, the complainant was able to take pictures of their neighbor’s property to help pinpoint where the odor and waste appeared to be coming from when she arrived. In addition to bringing the complaint notes and maintainer records, before heading out to the site Kyla also prepares a diagram that includes the septic tank, the property, and structures on the property. Upon arrival, she will try to find the homeowner or a tenant to get permission to enter their property and inspect the tank and drain field. If no one is home, viewing the tank and field can also be done from nearby public land, or by asking the neighboring complainant for permission to view the septic system from their property. During the inspection, she documents odors, the status of the tank, and any effluent seen by taking notes and pictures. If there is possible effluent on the drainage field, green fluorescent dye can be flushed down the toilet and can be seen in the drainage field a few days later to know for sure.

Likes and Dislikes

The most rewarding part of Kyla’s job is being able to assist homeowners and residents with solving their septic tank issues, which can become unpleasant for the residents and people nearby if left untreated. If there is effluent on the drainage field, an unappealing aspect can be the smell and having to walk in the sewage if the case is severe enough. Since the majority of inspections take place on rural land, a downside is that entering large and isolated properties can pose a risk to safety, so site visits are done in pairs. However, visiting rural land for site inspections gives Kyla the opportunity to explore King County and visit forests and farmland, which is a unique aspect of her job.

Future

Septic tank records (otherwise known as “as builts”) are filed on paper or film. While the notes that Kyla makes at the inspection sites get transferred into electronic form, she explained that Public Health plans to store the diagrams electronically in the future as well.

Hien N.: An Informational Interview with a Food Safety Specialist

An Informational Interview with a Food Safety Specialist

By Hien N.

Layne is an Environmental Health Specialist in the Food Safety program at Snohomish Health District. She has been with Snohomish Health District for over 30 years! She is a well-respected employee with a vast degree of knowledge in environmental health. The most enjoyable aspect of her job at this time is training others and conducting policy work for the food program. She was an inspector for many years but now she does mostly education and training for the other health inspectors. Her least favorite part of her job is there isn’t enough time to get everything done that needs to be done. She believes that there is always something that can be done to improve public health.

Layne attended Western Washington University and studied environmental science and microbiology with an emphasis on fresh-water ecosystems. Right after graduating from Western, she acquired a job with Lewis County as a microbiologist, and then later moved to Snohomish Health District. She initially worked in the solid and hazardous waste program which also included conducting pool inspections. After about a year, she moved to the Food Program and there is where she developed her expertise in “all things food”.

She explained that as a health inspector in the Food Program, you may end up working varied work hours.  This, however, can work in your favor.  You are able to flex your hours to meet the needs of the Health District, but also to meet your personal needs (if necessary).

Being one of the first women to work in Environmental Health Program at the Snohomish Health District, Layne worked with the Environmental Health Director and the Human Resource Director to create a policy that extended allowable maternal leave.  She was able to utilize this new policy as were other future working mothers.  When returning to work after her maternal leave, she was also able to create the first part-time environmental health specialist position.  Several other employees also made use of the new limited availability of part-time positions.  These were not just working mothers; formerly retired persons also came back to work on a part-time basis.

Layne is a wonderful person with great intentions for public health safety. Snohomish Health District is lucky to have someone like her regulating over Snohomish County!

Ali E.: An Informational Interview with an Environmental Health Officer

An Informational Interview with an Environmental Health Officer

By Ali E.

During these past few weeks at my internship, I’ve met a handful of different environmental health officers (EHOs) who all have varying interests, backgrounds, and stories. I’ve learned the different ways they ended up within the Office of Environmental Health in the Indian Health Service, and where they see themselves going in the future. Of all these people, there was one in particular who had a really interesting career path and who participated in an informational interview with me.

Learning how to conduct a pool survey

I met Kate a few weeks into my internship because she’s the EHO within our district with the most experience with pools. Because my project for the summer dealt with pools, I was able to go visit her field office for a few days. I learned the ins and outs of pool surveys, including debriefing with the pool operators, checking safety equipment, testing pool chemical levels, checking equipment maintenance, checking for proper documentation and chemical use, and above all how to give recommendations on how to improve the facility. Aside from learning how to properly and thoroughly conduct a pool survey, I learned a lot about Kate’s history that led her to where she is today.

Kate got her bachelor’s degree in exercise sport science because she was an athlete and loved sports and considered becoming an OT. She signed up for a Master of Public Administration program, but after a year changed to environmental health. Like me, she kind of stumbled unknowingly into environmental health because she liked the electives it offered.

The interesting part of Kate’s educational background is that she did an online master’s program that she spread out over the course of six years, which allowed her to travel around the world and work in various jobs while completing her degree. Prior to this summer, I hadn’t met a lot of people who had done their master’s degrees online, but I learned about the many advantages, as well as disadvantages, to going the online route. Kate is currently looking at getting a graduate certificate in epidemiology because her long-term goal is to get her doctorate and to work abroad, potentially with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doing environmental health work. I didn’t know that certificates existed before meeting Kate, and she showed me that there are a multitude of ways to go about education at the graduate level, and that there is plenty of time to do so. I personally want to take some time off before pursuing a master’s to work in different settings to find my niche. Kate showed me that it isn’t necessary to rush through your education just to get a degree, but that it’s more valuable to take time to find what you’re really passionate about.