Occupational Health Nursing
The decision to become a nurse of any variety is an honorable one. Nurses are so often the first and last faces a patient will see in a doctor’s office or hospital, and perform their jobs with such competency and good will the patient is often set at ease by these people. One field of nursing is meant to prevent the need to visit the doctor’s office for treatment of an injury. This type of nurse is called an Occupational Health Nurse, and what follows are a series of frequently asked questions regarding the profession.
What is an Occupational Health Nurse?
An Occupational Health Nurse (OHN) is someone hired, usually by a large company or factory, to make sure a work environment is safe for the workers, and that the workers are using that environment in the safest, most healthy way possible. They inspect and assess workplaces to make sure workers are not using unsafe equipment or being forced to partake in unsafe procedures.
How can I become an Occupational Health Nurse?
Of course, becoming a nurse is simply not a possibility without a sound nursing education. Hundreds of schools around the country offer Bachelor’s degrees in nursing, with an increasing number of online LPN programs and online RN programs being offered every year.
An OHN typically has at least a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. The classes the students must take to attain a Bachelor’s in this field center around anatomy, psychology, chemistry, physiology, and nutrition, all of which play a role in the profession of being an Occupational Health Nurse. While a Bachelor’s is, in most cases, a requirement when getting a job as an OHN, most employers go a step further and require that a candidate has attained his or her Master’s degree as well. Some colleges offer Occupational Health Nursing as a major in itself, though it is possible to get a Master’s in Nursing with training in Occupational Health.
With a college education out of the way, the next step for the future OHN is certification and licensure. Licensure is a requirement and must be done in any field of nursing. Check your state regulations for information on where and when licenses are given (resources for that and more are at the bottom of this page). Many colleges will make the receipt of a license part of their curriculum for outgoing students. Whether licensed as a Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse, the candidate has now, after receiving the license, done the bare minimum of what it takes to become an OHN.
Becoming certified with the American Board of Occupational Nurses as an OHN is not always a requirement of the job, but, like most certifications, it benefits the person who takes the time and spends the money to get it. Having a certificate not only increases a starting salary, but also gives the new candidate an advantage over his or her uncertified counterpart when applying and interviewing for jobs.
What would my hours be?
The answer to this question varies greatly, depending entirely on where the OHN works. If hired by a company, the nurse will usually work that company’s hours, as he or she is just another employee and is not needed beyond typical working hours.
Should the nurse be hired by a hospital or health clinic, however, nursing hours may apply. Typical “nursing hours” are often constituted by on-call days, holidays, weekends, and night shifts, as well as normal business hours.
What is the salary like?
Occupational Health Nurses typically made between $52,833 and $70,540 in 2010. On average, specialists within the field will make over $60,000. Of course, as with any profession, pay increases or decreases with education and experience. The LPN, as per the usual, will make less than the RN, and a new RN will make less than an experienced one. A CNA will make around $30,000 per year, while an Occupational Health Nurse Manager (usually an RN) can make as much as $88,000 or more. Certification also makes a difference here. It should also be noted that many companies (OHNs typically work for companies) offer company benefits, such as health insurance, 401k plans, stock options, and retirement. As a note, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has the field of OHN seeing “above average job growth” between 2006 and 2016.
What would my responsibilities be?
To simplify the intricacies of the job, an Occupational Health Nurse enforces the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. What this means is that the OHN makes sure that workers are given a safe working environment, that the procedures set in place for their work is safe, and that the workers are adhering to the safety guidelines.
Should something go wrong, be it something dramatic like a forklift overturning or something as simple as twisting an ankle on a poorly maintained warehouse floor, the OHN then removes his or her inspector’s hat and replaces it with a nurse’s cap. It is the nurse’s responsibility then to treat a worker’s injuries and determine a course of action. The nurse does this by considering the type of job the worker does, his or her past medical and occupational history, and the severity of the injury.
The nurse must then document the injury and the course of action taken to treat it, and also interpret and relay her findings for the employees and supervisors. Finally, if the injury was caused by an environmental factor, it is the nurse’s responsibility to suggest a course of action to rectify the mistake.
What would my typical day be like?
The answer to this question again varies depending on where the OHN works. If the nurse is hired by a company, as is often the case, he or she will likely play the role of inspector most days. Assuming injury is not a common occurrence (and it is partly the nurse’s job to make sure it isn’t) the nurse must work diligently to ensure injury remains a rarity.
If, on the other hand, the nurse has been hired by a health clinic or hospital, he or she is more likely to spend his or her majority of the time treating injured patients and making occupational decisions like the duration and type of occupational therapy as well as performing procedures to help a doctor make recommendations for or against worker’s compensation.
The Occupational Health Nurse is also usually required as a means of renewing his or her license to take continuing nursing education courses. The company for which the nurse works will pay for these courses, and they are meant to keep the nurse abreast of the latest technologies and advances in medicine so as to best serve his or her employer.
Occupational Health Nurse Resources
United States Dept. of Labor OHN Overview
Example of OHN Job Posting (with requirements)
Bureau of Labor Statistics on nursing
The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc.
The American Board of Occupational Health Nurses Inc.
Workplace Safety Tips (some of what an OHN enforces)
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
An Example of OHN Responsibilities within a Company
Occupational Health Resources for Occupational Health Nurses