Cara Cook, MS '15, RN, AHN-BC

Cara Cook, MS, RN, AHN-BCPosition:

Climate Change Program Coordinator

Place of work:

Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

Can you describe how you apply community/public health nursing in your work?

In my current role with the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments I work to address environmental health concerns from a public health standpoint. The environment and human health are inextricably linked, where if we address factors in the environment that contribute to illness, we can work to prevent disease at an earlier stage. This upstream thinking is the basis of public health nursing.

In addition, a major component of my role involves advocating for policy change that accounts for the impacts of environmental policy on public health. In order for individuals and communities to be healthy, we have to address environmental factors in the places in which we live, work, and play. When people have clean air to breathe, access to clean water, and healthy food to eat, we see better health outcomes, and environmental regulations should reflect this. 

How did UMSON’s Community/Public Health master’s specialty prepare you for your current position?

The UMSON’s CPH master’s program introduced me to a whole different area of nursing and provided a different perspective on the role of nurses outside of traditional care settings. With such variety in the curriculum — from environmental health to global health to social determinants of health — this program offered valuable content and experiences to expand on my nursing knowledge and practice. This program is what sparked my interest and passion in environmental health nursing and was a major influence in how I ended up in my current position. My practicum experience for the CPH master’s program was with the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, so when I entered my current role I already had a strong foundation to build off of.  

Additionally, many of the key skills need for my current position such as program planning and evaluation, principles of grant writing, and leadership and systems thinking, I use on a daily basis in my current role. However, for me, the program most importantly helped me build confidence in my capabilities as a nurse to address some of the pressing public health issues of our time.