Fieldwork – never too early to start thinking about it!

Preparation for fieldwork occurs at least one semester before the start of the placement. Securing a public health fieldwork placement is not an easy or predictable process.  Some sites have internship positions open on a seasonal basis, and you want to make note of these application deadlines because they are often much earlier than when you would actually register for your fieldwork course at school. (For example, the deadline for my summer internship program was February 15th.) Other sites’ openings fluctuate as projects and grant periods begin and end. It is definitely advisable to look around early to get an idea of potential agencies or organizations you might want to work for, but much like finding an apartment, openings may only get posted as they become available.

    Some tips:

  • Become familiar with your school’s fieldwork manual so that you can screen an internship description to determine if it would be a good fit to fulfill your requirements.
  • Maintain frequent contact with your fieldwork coordinator and update him or her on your search status.
  • Let professors and others in the field know that you are looking; even if they don’t have an opening, they are likely to know someone that does.
  • Google “public health internships” and add other search terms to narrow the geographical scope or area of focus. idealist.org and indeed.com seem to have the most listings.
  • Have an updated resume ready.  Many internships require writing samples specific to that position which makes applying to multiple internships at one time seem overwhelming. Minimize your stress!

I am happy to report that I have been accepted to the Health Research Training Program (HRTP) at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).  I will be working for the Primary Care Information Project, which utilizes electronic medical records to support the coordination of patient care in order to improve health outcomes. I’ll let you know all about it once I get started! Tweet me @JMCelio about fieldwork or anything public health related – I’d love to hear from you!

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