Florida Public Health Review

Publication Date



Background: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) funded Education and Research Centers (ERCs), located at 18 universities, with the mission to train occupational safety and health (OSH) leaders. The Florida Sunshine ERC has trained hundreds of students since its inception in 1997 through seven programs that collaboratively foster interdisciplinary education and applied research and practice. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented practical challenges for educators, students, and trainees, forcing institutions to move to remote learning. The pandemic also magnifies the importance of public health and OSH.

Purpose: This evaluation elicited feedback from ERC trainees early in the pandemic (2020) and again in 2021 on how the pandemic affected their training, professional development, career plans, and wellbeing.

Methods: Open-ended surveys were collected and focus groups were held with currently enrolled trainees from seven Sunshine ERC programs. Descriptive statistics were calculated, and qualitative transcripts were analyzed using MAXQDA software.

Results: Through survey responses (45 respondents) and focus group discussions (9 participants), ERC trainees shared their perspectives on pandemic impacts in their performance and wellbeing, transition to remote learning, their respective OSH fields, and career plans during the pandemic. Programs should consider enhancing OSH curricula to respond to training needs and issues related to occupational stress and well-being, pragmatism and disaster response, and even more interdisciplinary training to prepare for emerging population-wide threats.

Conclusions: OSH training will require shifts in teaching modalities and content to prepare OSH professionals for the future. Evaluation results informed teaching and training modifications to ensure that ERC objectives continue to be met and that trainees are well-prepared and supported.

Previous Versions

Aug 8 2022