COVID-19 has brought the study of infectious disease to the forefront of healthcare and nursing. Known as epidemiology, it’s the study of distribution and determinants of health-related states and events, not just diseases. Although bacterial and viral outbreaks are a core part of the study, other topics such as environmental exposures, injuries and natural disasters can be studied and investigated by epidemiologists as well.
Prior to COVID-19, employment growth within epidemiology was estimated at a 5% increase over the coming 20 years. Now, it’s projected to be near 30% growth from 2020 to 2030. With proof of how deadly and widespread infectious diseases can be, there’s a greater need for epidemiologists than what was previously predicted.
If you are nurse looking to get more involved in epidemiology, a good place to start is public health nursing. This branch of nursing promotes wellbeing and protects the health of a population local to the area serviced by the nurse. Some of the ways nurses can influence general wellbeing is by educating patients on STD prevention/education, flu season assistance and, more recently, monkeypox vaccinations drives.
If you want to transition even further into the field, consider completing a master’s degree in public health program. Most epidemiology positions, whether it’s in a lab or an office, require either a master’s in public health or in a related field. If you’re a nurse who already has a master’s degree, explore CEUs or other additional course work to broaden your knowledge and employability in epidemiology. There are certificates at post-master’s levels that can add to your skill set and bolster your resume.
Due to their first-hand experience with both disease and patient care, nurses have the power to contribute greatly to the field of epidemiology. If the prospect of researching and studying diseases or other health-related states sounds interesting to you, think about epidemiology as a potential career path. Your work could go a long way in predicting and preventing the path and prevalence of diseases in the future.