7 Must-Have Skills in Public Health

Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Having skills and abilities that will transfer across various departments and organizations can be essential to sustaining a long-term career in public health. So, we asked Shannon Hughes, Director of Workforce Development at the Florida Department of Health, to chime in on the top must-have skills sets for any public health professional.

1. Listening skills. Listening is a top aspect in having strong communication skills. In any organization, maintaining open and honest communication across the chain of command is a challenge. Having transparency in your communication efforts can help in both receiving information and providing it.

2. Storytelling skills. Not understanding how to communicate through the art of storytelling can be a disservice to your career and organization. Instead of using charts and graphs and statistics, which add value, it is important to hone the ability to highlight a situation through narrative and turn a story to a ‘call to action’ on both a community and individual level.

3. Open-mindedness.  Be open to new ways of doing things. Innovation must be embraced and the ‘same old ways’ may not always be the answers to combat the challenges and issues that impact us today.

4. Technology skills.  Public health professionals must strive to be on the forefront in the use of technology to manage systems and processes, whether that means using social media to enhance your communication efforts or taking online professional development courses to increase your core competencies. Many digital tools and technological resources exist that may enhance our job efficiency.

5.  Performance improvement and performance management skills. Quality improvement has been identified as key to creating more efficient and effective public health systems.These efforts drive excellence in various public health organizations. Look into further training and certification in these areas.

6.  Process improvement skills. Understanding how to conduct process improvement and knowing the techniques used to improve processes can be essential, especially in a complex environment like public health. Consider looking into programs like Rapid Process Improvement Training.

7. Research skills. An understanding of the use of evidence-based public health practices ensures that you are applying tested and successful strategies and approaches when addressing public health issues.

“Mentoring is a very low cost way to transfer knowledge and the benefit of our experience to those who seek higher and more responsible positions,” states Hughes. She supports the FPHTC Online Mentor Program and encourages all Florida public health employees to apply. “With so many public health professionals (up to 40%) retiring in the next 5 to 7 years, it is critical that we begin now to transfer this knowledge and historical perspective to ensure the stability and excellence in public health practice.”

If any OMP participant has questions or thoughts about this post, please type them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator at OMP@health.usf.edu.

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