Are You A Workforce Wonder Woman (Or Superman)?
August 2017

Principles for Developing Your Public Health Superpowers Through Workforce Development

By Amy Mullenix, John Richards, and Dorothy Cilenti
The National MCH Workforce Development Center

“I’m willing to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.” – Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman

The recent “Wonder Woman” movie got us here at the National MCH Workforce Development Center thinking about what it takes to keep getting better every day and the deliberate choices we make to improve. We need a maternal and child health workforce that can respond effectively to the changing environment of health transformation, never taking its eye off the prize of improved population-level health outcomes for families and communities. How can you make sure your professional skillset is just what your agency needs to achieve its goals?

Ask yourself: What new skill have I learned lately that will help my agency achieve its mission? What skill have I taught to someone else recently that will contribute to my team’s success? How can I build a culture of learning into my own professional life, or that of my agency?

Each of us who leads a team, participates in a team, or even just shows up to work every day can contribute to a culture of learning through intentional workforce development practices. The key is to be intentional. Here are a few tips (and a few “Wonder Woman” quotes) to get you started.

A Culture of Learning through Mentoring

“Someday, I want to be as good as you are.”
“Someday, you will be better than all of us.” – Young Diana talking with Antiope, her aunt and mentor

If you’ve seen “Wonder Woman,” you might have noticed that the main character, Diana, was mentored throughout her “early career” to prepare her for the challenges that were to come. Does your agency have a formal mentoring practice for early career staff? Is there a formalized way for seasoned staff to share their wisdom and institutional knowledge with new team members? Well-planned mentoring programs can be empowering for agencies – they develop the skills of new staff, honor the wisdom of seasoned staff, and create a true learning community.

Self-Assessment and Individual Learning

“You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know.” – Antiope, Amazon warrior and mentor

Discipline-specific skills are no longer sufficient in an interconnected world where we are challenged to address determinants of health in addition to their manifestations. Effective public health workers are also skilled in cross-cutting areas such as change management, systems thinking, and effective decision-making. Consider your capacity in those areas and talk with your supervisor about a plan to expand your horizons. Start with a self-assessment on the MCH Navigator, designed for MCH public health professionals. The assessment will produce a customized learning plan for you. Consider adding some of the recommended learning opportunities to your growth plan for your annual review.

Commit to “Do Something

“I guess I gotta try. My father told me once, ‘If you see something wrong happening in the world, you can either do nothing, or you can do something,’ and I already tried nothing.” – Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s contact to the outside world

In the movie (as in most movies, and in life) part of the hero’s struggle is the choice between taking a risk and staying comfortable on the sidelines. Making a small step forward toward the type of workforce development that can help you and your team requires a short-term sacrifice of time and planning for long-term benefits. Commit to taking a small step now to get you on your way. If you’d like to take a team approach, the National MCH Workforce Development Center can assist you with those small steps that may add up to big change for your team and your state. The Center offers multiple avenues to access skill development that is applied to your own challenges and MCH efforts.

Recognize that We Are All Superheroes

“Now I know that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.” – Wonder Woman 

There is a saying among comic book readers: If you need to stop a meteor, you call Superman, and if you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman; if you need to fix a problem, you call Wonder Woman. She, like all of us in MCH, uses intellect, training, and all the tools at her disposal to do her job. We may not have invisible jets, lassos of truth, or bullet-deflecting bracelets, but we have mentors, colleagues, and learning supports to help us every day when we go into the office to make a difference in so many people’s lives. This issue of Pulse details some of those workforce development resources that you can call upon to build your own superhero powers.