Be Prepared for the Unexpected: Public Health Pearls of Wisdom

Public Health Preparedness Basics
Online Course
1 hour
Columbia University
Columbia Regional Learning Center

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Public health agencies face a serious workforce crisis: an aging workforce with no sign of backfill, continued employee attrition, and concurrent budget cuts with increasing mandates leaving workers with a “do more with less” mantra. These challenges act synergistically to directly impact the staff’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities, causing a chronic loss of staff morale, and ultimately a loss of institutional memory. Passing on experiential knowledge and wisdom may be an effective method of empowering health department staff to think creatively, foster collaboration and leadership, and improve the efficiency of day-to-day operations. This research videography project aimed to preserve the institutional memory of, and forever capture, the universal pieces of wisdom of 10 current and former New York metropolitan-area health department employees with over 250 years of combined experience. These video-driven trainings serve to preserve the institutional memory of the health department by leveraging the undocumented knowledge, skills, experience, and expertise. Through an academic partnership, this study was collaboratively designed, implemented, and evaluated. Individual interviews were video-taped and qualitatively analyzed, using grounded theory, to capture emerging themes as a basis for a modular training package. Themes include cross-training, operations in crisis, the unexpected, and optimal communication. These public health pearls of wisdom are applicable to any health department and may offer a unique training tool to enable other health department staff to think and act creatively during a crisis, fiscal or emergent.

Learning Objectives: 
  • Identify key stressors on the public health workforce
  • Compare and contrast themes identified in this presentation with those experienced within the learners purview
  • Describe the impact of fiscal crises on day-to-day and emergency operations in a local health department
  • Formulate an individual plan to address internal workforce morale issues
PHEP Capabilities: 
Community Preparedness
Medical Countermeasure Dispensing
Responder Safety and Health
Emergency Operations Coordination
Emergency Public Information and Warning
Information Sharing
Volunteer Management