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Photo of CU Nursing student Becca Miles, BSN, RN

Planting the Seeds of Health

CU Nursing Student Has a Passion for Public Health

Written by Molly Smerika on May 30, 2024

Becca Miles, BSN, RN, always knew she would have a healthcare career, but she didn’t know she would become a public health nurse.

Her career started after graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in kinesiology. She was working at a school that offered childcare to teen moms.

“The school nurse was teaching classes to pregnant moms while also being a nurse for the daycare. I thought, ‘That’s it. That’s what I want to do',” she says. “I was so inspired to go into nursing from a community and public health nursing position while thinking about prevention, care, and setting people up for the best life they could have.”

Miles graduated with her BS in Nursing from the University of Colorado College of Nursing at Anschutz Medical Campus in 2004 and is currently enrolled in the college’s Doctor of Nursing Practice, Master’s in Public Health (DNP/MPH) dual-degree program.

“I love that the program is an ideal mix of doing both the public health sciences and advanced nursing practice,” Miles says. “I work with people who aren’t nurses; they’re public health professionals. I love learning both and it’s such a good fit for me.”

Meeting the Community’s Needs

Resources for Public Health Nurses

Miles works for Arapahoe County Public Health as a nurse educator in the immunizations program. Before that, she was with Tri-County Health for 18 years.

She was on Tri-County’s disease investigation team during the pandemic, helping train and educate people to be COVID-19 case investigators and contact tracers. She was also involved in Tri-County’s vaccine rollout.

“I realized how important public health nursing is for public health in general, especially in times of emergency and response,” she says. “I realized I could do anything and I was so inspired to impact the future of public health nursing.”

Miles says thinking about the community and offering healthcare to the public is something that translates to her life. She is a mom of four kids and understands the importance of keeping the public informed.

“I love knowing that we're planting seeds of health. I often work with families who are new to Colorado or new to the US, and I’m there to help them get the protection they need. It could be a chicken pox or measles vaccine, and it’s that moment of trust and that moment of investment that is really incredible,” she says. “It’s great knowing you’re doing bigger things for the population as a whole and that the impact can be so big."

“The Population is Our Patient”

Miles says a lot of people don’t know exactly what a public health nurse does. She describes public health nursing from a theoretical perspective. Instead of working with individuals as patients (in a traditional hospital or clinic setting), the population is her patient.

“Public health nurses think about the health and wellness of the population as well as system-level interventions so people can attain the best health they can,” she says. “I love helping remove barriers to health at the population level, and I feel so strongly and passionately about everyone’s right to receive healthcare.”

“Something I love is that every nurse – no matter what they’re doing, does a little bit of public health nursing whether they know it or not. I love it and it feels like a special secret.”

One aspect of public health nursing is meeting people where they are, which includes things like home visits, offering immunizations, or studying epidemiology.

“The work we do is always in the community,” Miles says. “We have clinics where people can come to our office and get immunizations, but we’re also working with uninsured and underinsured students in schools. We work to improve the health of people that the healthcare system leaves behind.”

Another thing nurses may not realize: public health nursing is part of every nursing role.

“As a nurse, you have to understand the social determinants of health and how people access healthcare,” she says. “Something I love is that every nurse – no matter what they’re doing, does a little bit of public health nursing whether they know it or not. I love it and it feels like a special secret.”

Topics: Alumni, Students