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Occupational Health Nursing

What is Occupational Health Nursing (OHN)?

The United States' Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) defines occupational health nurses as registered nurses who observe the workplace and assess employee health and safety in relation to the workplace environment and the tasks performed there. OSHA states that the primary goal of an OHN is to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. These nurses observe the workplace and document exposures to risks, as well as illnesses and injuries that occur. They identify any abnormalities in the workplace and conduct lab and diagnostic tests in order to appraise the health and safety of the environment.

What is the Typical Work Environment for Occupational Health Nursing?

Occupational health nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, and schools. These nurses can also work for public or government organizations concerned with workplace health and safety, such as OSHA.

How Does One Become an Occupational Health Nurse?

The first step towards a career in occupational health nursing is to become a registered nurse. This requires completion of an accredited nursing program. Once an individual has earned a diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree in nursing, he or she must pass the NCLEX-RN and become licensed.

After gaining experience as a registered nurse, one can take an examination through the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. (ABOHN) to become a Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) or a Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist (COHN-S).
The former certification requires an individual to have at least 3,000 hours experience in occupational health in the past 5 years or to have completed a OH certificate program for academic credit. The latter (COHN-S) requires that individuals have at least a bachelor's degree in nursing, in addition to the experience mentioned. For COHN-S, the experience requirement can also be met by completing a graduate degree with a concentration in OH.

What is the Average Salary for Occupational Health Nursing?

According to Johnson & Johnson, occupational health nurses make between $42,000 and $55,000 per year. This is slightly lower than the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) estimate for registered nurse salaries, which states that the median salary for this profession in 2012 was $65,470.

What is the Job Outlook?

The job outlook for occupational health nursing, specifically, is unclear, but the outlook for registered nursing in general is excellent. The BLS predicts 19% job growth for RNs from 2012-2022.

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