It was with trepidation that Glenys Nicholls made the life changing decision to change her career.
In 2007 Glenys left behind her world of managing the school canteen to enrol as a mature age student at the University of Tasmania in the three and a half year Bachelor of Health Science (Environmental Health) undergraduate degree.
Glenys advises “From orientation day onwards I have loved every minute of being a Uni student. There might be other people out there that don’t fully understand what this career is about and so we decided to do a profile to inform others who may be thinking about a career change”.
The first year of the degree Glenys undertook units such as Anatomy & Physiology and Advanced Food Safety which as a mature age student found fascinating as she could better understand and relate to issues both individually and within her own community. Over the next few years Glenys decided to reinforce her interest in the health and safety of communities by volunteering with Central Coast and Kentish Councils which provided her with great insight into the variety of tasks undertaken as an Environmental Health Officer. Glenys eventually gained a position as Environmental Technical Officer in 2010 with Latrobe Council. Glenys states “The Council have been extremely generous in providing time for study, attendance at classes on campus, together with a range of professional development opportunities. Glenys has been actively involved in emergency management training at Mt Macedon and has built on existing knowledge through participation in health promotion activities with the Heart Foundation and Eat Well Tasmania. Council have also been proactive in supporting Glenys in attending seminars from Department of Health & Human Services and Environmental Health Tasmania covering issues such as food security, wood smoke, notifiable diseases, epidemiology, on-site wastewater systems, and tobacco control. Glenys states “some of this learning together with experience in her previous role has even resulted in gaining some prior learning which decreases the length of time to finishing her degree”.
Over the two years on the job with the Latrobe Council Glenys has enjoyed the variety in the work with involvement in a number of different public areas including the following:-
Recreational Water sampling, inspections of food businesses, representation on the Environmental Health Australia Board, Deputy Recovery Officer for Latrobe Municipality, attendance at metings with planning, building and environmental health staff to discuss recent applications for planning and building, Inspection of newly constructed on-site wastewater systems, halls and buildings for Places of Assembly, assessment of businesses involved with tattooing or body piercing, Speaking to residents in regard to noise, odour and smoke complaints and involvement with Directives from DHHS for notifiable diseases and recalled food products.
One of the more recent projects she is co-ordinating is the Healthy Communities Initiative Programs.
Latrobe Council (as part of the Cradle Coast Authority) is one of 9 Councils identified by the Commonwealth Government as an area at risk of lifestyle diseases such as cardiac disease, obesity, diabetes and some cancers. Councils have been provided with funding to help address this problem by promoting activities around physical exercise and healthy eating. Latrobe Council are currently planning a project called “Eating Well in Latrobe Municipality” which will promote local businesses who provide healthy options on their menus and also comply with the food safety and hygiene regulations.
The Council actively engaged local High School students from Latrobe High in evaluating the importance of this project from a resident and visitor perspective with results showing 86% of those surveyed felt this was of high importance in the community. Glenys plans to hold information sessions with food business operators over the coming months prior to the program being launched.
Glenys states that she would “highly recommend to anyone thinking about becoming an EHO, if you love variety in your working day, have an interest in the physical sciences , and enjoy working outside in all weathers, a range of exciting job options are available once graduated. As you progress into your degree many of the units are online via distance which helps in managing workloads ”.
Glenys plans to graduate this August and whilst she feels juggling family, work and study can be difficult at times has been grateful for the flexibility and support provided by her workplace and School of Human Life Sciences, Utas.
For further information on the Bachelor of Health Science (Environmental Health) please contact Merran Rogers on 6324 5400 or email email@example.com.
Q: What is your job?
A: I am an environmental technical officer at the Latrobe Council and will be referred to as environmental health officer when I graduate from university next month.
Q: What does your job involve?
A: It is extremely diverse, with the main role involved in the protection of public health such as food business inspections, immunisations, on-site waste water inspections, recreational water sampling, inspections of public buildings, health promotion, inspections of tattoo premises and body piercers and contaminated land.
I am also the student representative on the board of Environmental Health Australia (Tasmania). This entails helping with organising personal development opportunities such as seminars and conferences and promotion of the role of EHOs. I have a small role with emergency management (deputy recovery officer) with the council and I am also the coordinator of the Healthy Communities initiative at Latrobe.
Q: How did you get started?
A: I had a job with Tasmanian School Canteens as a consultant and was involved with advising canteen managers regarding food safety and my interest evolved from there. When UTAS offered the Bachelor of Health Science (Environmental Health) for the first time in 1998 I was encouraged to enrol and haven't looked back from then.
Q: Describe an average day?
A: No two days are quite the same, but one day may be taking water samples at rivers, beaches and public swimming pools, inspecting food businesses, conducting an immunisation clinic and then completing the created paperwork. Another day may be writing reports, organising a health promotion activity, inspecting a failing septic tank and attending seminars and conferences.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: The diversity makes every day quite different. The role allows for work outside and inside along with some time in front of a computer doing the necessary paperwork.
Q: What challenges are there?
A: Ensuring businesses and residents are complying with current legislation can sometimes be challenging.
Q: What are some of the personal qualities needed for your job?
A: A sense of humour, empathy, good time management and a willingness to see both sides of the story.
Q: What advice would you give for someone just starting out?
A: Go for it. An EHO is one of the most exciting and diverse roles that is not restricted to local government, jobs are also available on cruise ships, the military, state health or with private businesses.
Q: Are there any qualifications needed for your job?
A: There are a variety of university degrees, but UTAS at offers a Bachelor of Health Science (Environmental Health).
Authorised by the Head of Human Life Sciences
17 July, 2012