Introducing the new State Epidemiologists from the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health – Sandi Larson, MPH (pictured left) and Melissa Peek-Bullock (pictured right). Together, we are job sharing the position to better serve the state. It means we both work part-time and divide the work 51-49 based on our expertise. While job sharing isn’t new for the agency, it hasn’t been widely adopted.
The agency decided to offer the job share for several reasons. First, to provide statewide representation. Our state capital and the bulk of our staff and administrative offices is in the north, and we need to be available to provide a subject matter expert for legislature, media and to consult closely with the administration. The bulk of morbidity is in the south along with our largest local health authority. The former State Epidemiologist had to travel a lot across the state to serve the needs of both the north and south; the job share reduces the amount of travel associated with the position as we now have local representation. Second, as State Epidemiologists, we want to be an integral part of the two growing schools of public health both in the north and south. Third, agency leadership recognized that younger staff are interested in upper management, but also want a healthy work-life balance. Job sharing this position allows us to pursue our public health careers and have quality family time. Fourth, agency leadership hopes the job sharing arrangement will increase retention, provide additional coverage during periods of leave, and reduce staff burn out. Turnover is detrimental to any program including management. Long-term investment in the position fosters stability for our state.
The Nevada State Epidemiologist positions focus on providing technical assistance. Sandi’s previous experience is in the areas of STD, HIV, hepatitis, TB, mental health and substance abuse as a Health Program Manager at the state. Melissa was formerly an Epidemiologist at a local health department where her portfolio included general communicable diseases, such as enteric diseases, vector-borne diseases, viral hepatitis, influenza, and perinatal hepatitis B. Together we have complementary skills and expertise to improve the epidemiology capacity at the agency.
For job sharing to work effectively, those sharing the position must have strong communication skills and be able to work together seamlessly. We do not want to second guess each other or duplicate work. Work will be distributed as evenly as possible and effective communication is critical. We do not want to confuse staff as to who they need to work with on a particular issue. Technology, including video conferencing and desk sharing, helps us stay connected with each other and to our co-workers. For external partners, we are setting up a shared email account, so to them, they do not need to distinguish between us. External partners who email or call will be directed to whomever is most appropriate.
While we are both new to the position, we are excited to serve Nevada using our epidemiology skills through job sharing while continuing to have a strong work-life balance.
Sandi Larson, MPH and Melissa Peek-Bullock are the State Epidemiologists at the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health. Join the CSTE Workforce Subcommittee to learn more about other workforce development strategies. If you have questions or would like to learn more about CSTE’s Workforce Development portfolio, please contact Jessica Arrazola.