Public Health Practicum

The public health field education, or practicum experience, is an important component of the Pacific University public health program.

During the practicum, students gain hands-on experience in the field while working within an organization that addresses public health issues. The practicum allows students to apply public health knowledge and theories learned in didactic coursework to their assigned responsibilities within a professional setting. Field education represents a unique partnership between the university and community organizations. 

Practicum Field Sites

A range of organizations can serve as practicum field sites, including governmental and non-governmental public health, health care, and community-based organizations. Host agencies appoint one staff person to serve as the practicum field instructor. This representative supervises the student placement and facilitates fieldwork activities.

Fieldwork Activities

Students spend a minimum of 70 contact (field) hours with the organization over the course of one semester (either spring semester of junior year or fall semester of senior year) or approximately 5-7 hours per week for 13-14 weeks. With supervision, students can perform a range of activities. Student activities should involve at least one of the essential public health services and allow students to develop public health core competencies. Such activities could include collection of health data or other surveillance activities, community assessment, mobilization, policy, advocacy, program planning, program evaluation, and/or health education activities. 

Practicum Seminar Course

The 70-hour field experience is completed as part of a four-credit civic engagement course titled PH-380: Public Health Field Experience. This course is for public health majors only and is completed in junior or senior year. Student learning outcomes for this course include:

  • Identify examples of and strategies for civic engagement in public health
  • Apply concepts of generalist public health education to public health issues; including the socioecological model and a population health perspective
  • List the range of entities that encompass the public health system and how these agencies fit together to promote public health
  • Discuss ethical dilemmas and standards in public health practice
  • Reflect on personal interests and growth as a public health professional

To learn more about the practicum seminar course (including course description and role in the public health curriculum), see an example syllabus

Practicum Requirements

  • 70-hour, semester-long field experience during either spring semester (late January - early May) or fall semester (late August - early December). 
  • Field experience focuses on at least one of the 10 Essential Public Health Services. Additionally, the student identifies at least three public health core competencies (professional skill areas) to focus on.
  • Completion of Learning Contract (form provided) by the student and field instructor and approved by the Public Health Practicum Coordinator at the start of the practicum semester. The Learning Contract details expectations for the field experience, including specific activities and projects.
  • Majority of field hours spent in activities other than job shadowing or clerical work (although some of these activities may be appropriate for orientation, fulfilling the Learning Contract, and in the realization that all professions include a range of duties).
  • Supervision of the student by a designated field instructor (at least 30 minutes of individual supervision meetings for every 20 hours of placement, after appropriate orientation).
  • Evaluation of student performance by designated field instructor (form provided).
  • Student completion of a number of academic activities as a component of the Practicum Seminar, a course that is facilitated by the Public Health Program. Students may ask their field instructors for occasional guidance (e.g., provision of an organizational chart, discussion of the organization’s mission).
  • Final site visit, evaluation, and reflection meeting with field instructor, student, and Public Health Practicum Coordinator during final weeks of practicum semester.

University Support

All students and practicum field instructors will have support available from faculty and staff in the public health program. During the field experience semester, students enroll in a seminar course with a public health faculty member to help them integrate course concepts with their field experiences. 

Field Instructor Resource Documents

Public Health Field Manual (pdf)

The Public Health Field Manual provides an overview of the public health practicum experience. The information shared in this manual serves to enhance the linkage and partnership between the university, public health program, and professional community.

Learning Contract (pdf)

During the first week of practicum, the student and field instructor work together to create a learning contract to document the expectations for the practicum placement. The learning contract outlines practicum activities, which should address the objectives of the practicum course.

Practicum Placement Agreement (pdf)

During the first week of practicum, the student and field instructor sign the practicum placement agreement, which outlines their roles and responsibilities related to practicum.

Sample Orientation Checklist (doc)

Field instructors may use this sample orientation checklist as a guide when orienting the practicum student to the organization.

For more information or to learn about becoming a field instructor or adding your organization to the list of potential field sites, contact:

Rose Dahl, MLIS
Professional Practicum Coordinator