Public Health Nurse Conference 2007

Indiana Epidemiology Newsletter
June 2007

Tom Duszynski, BS

Indiana’s public health nurses play a vital role in protecting, aiding, and educating Hoosiers. The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) recognizes the contribution these nurses make to public health in Indiana and assists their efforts by offering continuing education opportunities, such as the annual Public Health Nurse Conference.

On June 8, more than 150 public health nurses and nursing students attended the 2007 ISDH Public Health Nurse Conference. This year’s conference was the most well attended in conference history. Several years ago, the conference began as a “training day” to provide newly hired public health nurses with general education about public health responsibilities within local health departments. The conference has consistently grown over the past several years, and new ideas and different topics have emerged based on suggestions from those who have attended. Conference planners have used participants’ input to restructure the program to meet the needs of public health nurses. This year’s conference was no exception.

Deputy State Health Commissioner Mary Hill, an attorney and registered nurse, opened the conference by reminding public health nurses and nursing students of the important work they do every day for Hoosiers and how, since September 11, 2001, their roles and knowledge have changed and expanded to include the world of preparedness, again demonstrating the flexibility of public health nursing. Three plenary sessions followed, including updates on syndromic surveillance, cultural competency, and vaccine-preventable diseases.

Following the plenary sessions, the conference included concurrent sessions for the first time. Designed for a smaller audience, these sessions provided more in-depth information about various topics highlighted in the 2006 conference. According to participant evaluations, overall, the sessions were well received. Topics included case investigation and surveillance, tuberculosis, outbreak investigation, HIV/STD case interviewing, and viral hepatitis. Each session was offered three times during the day to give those who wanted to attend the opportunity to do so.

The conference concluded with a plenary session describing two case studies. One described a recent case of eczema vaccinatum that occurred in an Indiana child following exposure to a family member recently vaccinated for smallpox and subsequent tertiary transmission to the mother. The second case study described a large outbreak of salmonellosis during the summer of 2006 in which 199 confirmed cases were identified in 15 Indiana counties and 2 other states.

The ISDH was fortunate to have a team from the Indiana Mid-America Public Health Training Center (IMAPTHC) film the sessions; copies should be available in early August.

During the conference, we asked all attendees to complete a survey about public health nursing in Indiana. We gave separate surveys to public health nurses and nursing students. The information from these surveys will be shared with those who completed the surveys as well as with other program areas within the state of Indiana and the schools of nursing. This will provide policymakers and curriculum coordinators with a better understanding of the current public health nursing situation within Indiana. The results will be posted in an upcoming edition of the Indiana Epidemiology Newsletter.

Planning has begun for next year’s conference, which is scheduled for Wednesday, June 4, 2008. The planning team is reviewing participant evaluations for suggestions and comments. The ISDH would like to thank everyone who attended this year’s conference. We look forward to seeing you next year!