A required applied practice experience is integral to the MPH curriculum.
The goal of the Public Health applied practice experience (APE) is to provide students with the opportunity to apply public health academic theory and acquired skills from their concentration to community-based research and service in a practice setting.
While each APE will be different, the experience should link directly to the MPH core competencies and each student’s concentration competencies. It should also provide the student with an opportunity to perform the following skills:
- Demonstrate effective written and oral skills for communicating with different audiences in the context of professional public health activities.
- Apply evidence-based principles and the scientific knowledge base to critical evaluation and decision-making in public health.
- Promote high standards of personal and organizational integrity, compassion, honesty and respect for all people.
- Work collaboratively with diverse communities and constituencies (e.g. researchers, practitioners, agencies and organizations) to advance public health goals.
When should I begin my APE?
Securing an APE is a collaborative effort that can involve the student, the practice coordinator, the APE instructor, the student’s advisor, and the preceptor. The experience must relate to the student’s chosen concentration or specialty track of study and faculty can serve as consultants in the selection process.
Students should begin looking for an APE site three to six months prior to the desired start date. Opportunities are shared in weekly emails distributed, but students are encouraged to network with faculty, fellow students, and alumni to secure an APE.
What are the academic requirements?
Enrollment and Grades for the APE
To complete the APE, students must enroll in PH7960 (Public Health Appled Practice Experience) for a total of three (3) hours or two (2) hours, depending on semester enrolled in the MPH program. The APE is an academic course that students register for, pay tuition and receive academic credit that applies toward the degree requirements. Students only register once for the APE and credit hours are only applied once. If the APE is not completed in one semester, the student continues the fieldwork until the hours are completed.
University rules state that no letter grades will be given for an applied practice experience except “S” (satisfactory), “U” (unsatisfactory), or “IP” (in progress). IP grades are fairly common, because often an APE does not completely coincide with the semester time frame and completion may occur in a later semester. Using the APE evaluation and in-class progress reporting, the practice coordinator and instructor will evaluate student work and determine the appropriate grade for the APE period under review.
How do I select a site and a preceptor?
Exposure of future public health professionals to practice relies to an important extent on the collaboration of a diverse set of public, private and not-for- profit organizations engaged in public health and other related disciplines. Eligible organizations are those that offer practice settings with the following characteristics:
- Field experiences that are commensurate with the student’s concentration;
- Well-defined activities that enable students to apply academic theory in practical situations;
- Engagement of experienced preceptors or site supervisors as outlined in the learning contract; and
- A work environment, including work space, conducive to successful performance
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) concerning affiliation of students for applied learning experience, on file at Georgia State, establishes a formal relationship between the University and the APE organization and articulates the terms and conditions for the practice experience. Each prospective site will be required to enter into an MOU with Georgia State. Once the student secures his or her APE, the practice coordinator will initiate the MOU. Students should check with the practice coordinator to determine if an MOU is already in place or if one must be initiated.
Skilled practitioners who are willing to serve as preceptors or APE supervisors represent a critical component of the APE experience. Effective preceptors are those who possess the following qualifications:
- Extensive experience in public health, health care or a related discipline;
- Engaged in work that fulfills the requirements of the APE;
- Experience as a mentor or supervisor;
- Ability to spend the required time with the student and provide periodic feedback and guidance to the students through formal evaluations, regularly scheduled meetings and other means as described in the learning contract.
What are the roles and responsibilities?
In collaboration with the practice coordinator, the adviser, and appropriate faculty, students are responsible for the following:
- Identify potential sites based on the APE, area of specialization, previous experience, career interests, and career goals. The MPH program will provide a list of approved APE sites that offer diverse and effective opportunities. In some instances students may propose an organization. However, it is the student’s responsibility to establish contact with that organization, identify a prospective preceptor and propose the site and specific learning contract to the practice coordinator for review. The APE site can only be approved by the MPH program after a formal agreement has been signed between the MPH program and the site.
- Develop a learning contract – including objectives, activities linked to competencies, a timeline, milestones and final deliverables and secure approval of the plan by the preceptor, the practice coordinator, and instructor.
- Purchase professional liability insurance. Students who already have coverage must provide documentation; otherwise, students may purchase through the Georgia State web store for a one-time fee of $13.
- Provide written progress reports to the preceptor and instructor.
- Participate in APE course
- Submit a final APE poster describing the project, activities undertaken, results, findings and recommendations.
- Conduct a midterm and final evaluation of the APE experience.
The practice coordinator provides overall management of the MPH APE program. In this role, the coordinator, in collaboration with other faculty, is engaged in the following activities:
- Identifies prospective sites in collaboration with MPH faculty
- Facilitates the development of formal agreements between the MPH program and the practice organization
- Serves as the liaison to the program, the student and the organizations formally approved as APE sites
- Provides advice to students about site selection and the development of the specific learning contract
- Instructor approves APE contract
- Instructor provides orientation to students and preceptors
- Instructor maintains communication with preceptor for duration of APE; mediates any issues that arise
- Instructor tracks student progress, provides feedback and guidance
Following the development of a formal agreement, APE sites are expected to accomplish the following actions:
- Identify prospective preceptor(s) who have expertise in the proposed APE topic and will serve as the organization’s representative and mentor for the student
- Allow the preceptor adequate time to serve as a mentor and supervisor
- Provide workspace and other workplace attributes to foster successful student performance
- Provide periodic feedback to the MPH program through formal evaluations, organized meetings etc.
Once selected to serve as preceptor, the preceptor’s responsibility includes the following:
- Provide technical and administrative oversight to the student throughout the APE period
- Provide periodic feedback and guidance to the student in writing and through meetings
- Review the student’s progress through formal mid-term and final evaluations
- Collaborate with the instructor and practice coordinator to address overall project issues
How will I be evaluated?
Formal evaluation will be conducted in a standardized fashion and is designed to be processed and outcome related, involving students, preceptors and the MPH program. Students and preceptors will provide midterm and final evaluations by completing designated forms. Evaluation at the program level will occur through feedback from the MPH program faculty and administrators as well as representatives from APE organizations.