Guidelines for PH 698W, Practicum for Worcester Students

 
All MPH students who matriculated in the fall semester 2007 and thereafter are required to complete a 3-credit practicum as part of their degree requirement.  Worcester students must complete 3 of the core courses before signing up for a practicum.  The minimum time for a practicum experience is 200 hours.  However, individuals with evidence of 3 years of experience and currently employed fulltime in a public health or health care practice are given 80 hours credit toward the practicum.  This credit would reduce the minimum practicum requirement to 120 hours.  Practicum experiences may be paid or unpaid. Placements are found by the student and approved by the Worcester MPH Program Director.  After the practicum is approved, students are instructed to register for PUBHLTH 698W Worcester Practicum for 3 credits.  Please note that the practicumwill be graded as pass/fail.  The following guidelines provide additional information regarding the practicum.

Site Selection and Site Supervisor:

Practicum site selection and the practicum supervisor are chosen by the student.  The MPH Program Director is available for guidance with practicum and supervisor selection.  Worcester MPH students have the option of implementing the practicum at their current work site, provided that the the following guidelines are followed: 

  • The practicum is relevant to public health and provides the opportunity to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to a practical project or activity in the work place.  This can be accomplished by working on a public health project or activity that already exists or designing and implementing an original project or activity.
  • The practicum is not included in the student’s current job description. The practicum work may be related to the student’s current position but represents a new activity related to the goals and competencies included in the Scope of Work form completed by the student.
  • The practicum site supervisor must agree to work closelywith the student throughout the practicum experience.  Students will not receive practicum credit until the practicum supervisor completes a formal written evaluation.

MPH students planning to conduct a practicum outside the place of work must meet the following practicum site criteria: 

  • The practicum site is an organization, agency, or community that provides planning or services relevant to public health.
  • The practicum site offers the student the opportunity to further develop and apply specific competencies developed in the Worcester MPH program.
  • A practicum site supervisor with appropriate expertise is designated to work closely with the student, providing regular meetings, offering support, and monitoring the student’s progress throughout the practicum experience.
  • The practicum site provides adequate resources for the student, including an appropriate workspace.
  • The practicum site activities and projects are a good match with the individual needs and and interests of the student.

Please be advised that some organizations will request a contract between the specified organization and the University of Massachusetts.  At the present time, there is no protocol in place to accommodate such contracts. As such, students are encouraged to find organizations that do not require contracts.  Students may negotiate with an organization by offering to serve as volunteer without a contract. Some students have been successful with this approach by making a statement such as “Are you willing to let me volunteer/work without the contract? Are there other options we could consider?” 

The practicum site supervisor should have substantial experience with the organization, a working knowledge and practical experience in the project areas assigned to the student, and an interest in and commitment to working closely with the student.   Additionally, the site supervisor should:  a) assist the student in establishing and achieving the goals set forth in the Scope of Work document, b) provide regular feedback during the practicum, and c) complete the Site Supervisor Evaluation for Worcester MPH form at the conclusion of the practicum. 

Practicum Topics:

Students are encouraged to choose a topic of professional interest that will be valuable to the practicum site.  Some examples of previous Worcester MPH student practicum topics include: developing a smoking cessation program and/or wellness program at the place of work, designing a curriculum for public education regarding toxicology, implementing an emergency bedside ultrasound curriculum for a hospital in Cambodia, studying the impact of social networks on substance use recovery in homeless adults, evaluating a school health program targeting obesity, analyzing injuries to adolescents attending vocational high schools in Connecticut, implementing new mental health screening requirements for refugee and immigrant health clinics in Massachusetts, developing and evaluating a nutrition curriculum for medical students, participating in a community-based project to reduce female genital mutilation in Africa, developing a curriculum for interns at a local public health agency, and developing an evaluation tool for providers of maternal child health nursing visits.  

Word of Caution:
For students choosing practicum experiences which may involve surveying and/or interviewing people, analyzing data, or publishing and presenting the results, there may be a requirement to obtain Human Subjects approval from your organizaiton as well as from UMass.  Contact your organization directly regarding human subjects policies and procedures.  For more information regarding the IRB (Internal Review Board) procedures through the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at UMass, review the link below.

http://www.umass.edu/sphhs/research/HumanSubjects.html

Next Steps:

The practicum course is graded as pass/fail (SAT/UNSAT). In order to receive a passing grade, students are required to submit the following:

  • The Scope of Work form, the Student Evaluation of the Practicum, and the Site Supervisor Evaluation form to be completed by the site supervisor.  These forms are attached. 
  • Once the Scope of Work Form has been received and approved by the Worcester MPH Program Director, identify an on-site supervisor who will oversee the practicum; submit the name of the supervisor, his/her title and email address to the MPH Program Director.  
  • Submit a well written, 10-page paper summarizing the practicum experience following Standard English guidelines, using numbered pages and including a reference list that follows either APHA or AMA formats.
  • All forms and the summary paper must be submitted to the MPH Program Director two weeks prior to end of the semester in which the grade will be reported.

 All submitted work must adhere to the University's Policy on Academic Honesty which is as follows:

“Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. [Examples of behavior that constitutes academic dishonesty can be found at: http://www.umass.edu/dean_students/codeofconduct/acadhonesty/#B.] Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair. The procedures that are intended to provide an efficient and orderly process by which action may be taken if it appears that academic dishonesty has occurred and by which students may appeal such actions are described in the Dean of Students Code of Student Conduct, available at: http://www.umass.edu/dean_students/codeofconduct/acadhonesty/#policy

Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent. “

 Combining PUBHLTH 698W Worcester Practicum and PUBHLTH 696D Culminating Project:

Students typically take the PUBHLTH 698W Worcester Practicum before completing the PUBHLTH 696D Culminating Project.  In some cases, students develop ideas for their Culminating Experience during the practicum.  Occasionally, with special permission from the MPH Program Director, a student may be allowed to take the courses together (PUBHLTH 698W Worcester Practicum and PUBHLTH 696D Culminating project) by designing and/or implementing the project within the practicum organization.  To do so, students must have completed the pre-requisites for both courses, including the 200 hours required for the practicum, and must significantly expand upon the research and report submitted for the practicum experience.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the practicum and its guidelines, please direct them to the MPH Program Director: Dr. Coghlin-Strom at Jackie.coghlin-strom@umassmed.edu