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How a healthcare internship can help you with choosing a career path in public health

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: November 30, 2022

4 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the importance of public health into sharp relief and highlighted the number of varied careers you could pursue in healthcare. 

Epidemiologists, public health officials and health communications experts became familiar and trusted voices in the media. We’ve seen that healthcare extends far beyond the frontline doctors and nurses. The impact of public healthcare is now more visible than ever. 

If you’re interested in public healthcare but not really sure whether this is the right direction for you, here is how a healthcare internship could be the first step on a career path revolving around health and wellbeing.

What is public health? 

The focus of public health is to protect communities against health risks, prevent illness and promote well-being. Public health is centred around protecting and promoting the health of groups of people, rather than treating diseases, disorders and disabilities in individuals. Think of public health as the guardrails at the top of the cliff, rather than the ambulance at the bottom. 

GVI’s public health projects, such as the healthcare internship in Nepal, use evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies to help communities develop their own abilities to address issues facing them, and improve their health and wellbeing in the long run. 

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This kind of healthcare work might appeal if you have a long-term view of healthcare in communities and are interested in promoting health at scale.

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What kind of jobs can you do in public healthcare?

So what does a career in public health actually entail? Public health jobs are suitable for anyone with a passion for healthcare beyond clinical medicine. Essentially, if you are broadly interested in public health, you can then map that to your other interests, whether they lie in science, education or even arts. 

There are a range of other scientific fields which might suit an interest in public health; you might want to pursue a career as a virologist,epidemiologist,  microbiologist, immunologist or vaccine researcher.

You might be more interested in developing public policy to benefit diverse communities and ensure equal access to healthcare. For example, as a public health policy analyst, you could review the literature on suicide among youth and advise government or non-profit organisations on prevention strategies.

Then there are other roles such as promoting awareness of healthy living, and working as an educator, community outreach worker or health communications specialist. These types of roles might appeal more if you want to work closely with different groups of people, or if you want to tap into your more creative side to develop communication campaigns.  


How do you know if a career in public health is for you?

One of the best ways to decide if a career in public health is for you is to get hands-on experience in the field with a healthcare internship. This opens up pathways you might not have considered before, and gives a realistic view of what is involved in this career. 

This can have positive long-term effects for the whole field of public health, the more people given the chance to gain experience through an internship, the more diverse public healthcare forces can be.

GVI offers a healthcare internship in Fiji, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal and South Africa. These internships are ideal opportunities for exploring different facets of community health. 

During this healthcare internship, you might help teach basic first aid skills, educate on methods of reducing malaria transmission, or share knowledge of fitness and nutrition. 

Some of these internships focus on women and girls, who are often unable to openly discuss topics like puberty, menstrual health or mental health because of a strictly patriarchal society. Supporting women and girls as they navigate their health and wellbeing can help to address gender inequality and improve health outcomes.

Helping to provide resources for women is also beneficial to the wider community, as they often care for their families, treating minor injuries and paying attention to nutrition and other preventative health measures. In this way, empowering women helps to improve the health of the communities as a whole, and challenge the gender inequalities they are facing. This healthcare internship will give you experience in sustainable change within healthcare. 

Applying to study

After taking part in a healthcare internship, you might have a clearer idea of what you would like to study. Public health is a broad field with an intimidating number of directions you could choose to go in, which can feel overwhelming when you’re only just embarking on your student journey. After completing an internship, you’ll be able to focus on the areas that really resonate with you, and make better program choices to set you up for success. On top of that, the skills and practical experience you will have gained can help you get into the program you want. 

For example, during the healthcare internship, you might plan, design and deliver health workshops or activities. You will have knowledge of how these initiatives support wider community wellbeing. This experience looks great on an application and could make you stand out from the crowd, as you will be able to show your understanding of public health strategies. 

Find out if a career in public health is for you by joining a healthcare internship, apprenticeships, and fellowships with GVI today. 

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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