What is an Occupational Health Nurse?

Occupational health nurses oversee the mental health, safety, and treatment of healthcare staff in the healthcare industry.

These specialists provide medical/emotional care, education, and advocacy to ensure employees receive good support.

They also observe how employees are treated in the workplace and look for ways to improve staff support.

It enables them to advance the health, well-being, and safety of healthcare workers and their communities.

As a result, occupational health nurses ensure healthcare workers have successful, safe, and supported employment.

What Do Occupational Health Nurses Do?

Occupational health nurses manage numerous responsibilities to accommodate the needs of healthcare staff.

It includes disease risk assessment and management, employee and environmental health, and hazardous material usage and safety.

This work enables occupational health nurses to prevent/minimize workplace issues and address various health concerns.

They’ll educate employees and employers on preventative measures to reduce the occurrence of accidents and injuries. 

Occupational health nurses also assist with rehabilitation, treatment, and care for on-the-job injuries and illnesses.

Healthcare work can be highly rewarding.

However, it has a lot of risks due to the nature of the job.

As a result, occupational health nurses help ensure employees receive good benefits and healthcare services by overseeing a range of employee-related health and medical needs.

Overall, this profession focuses on preventative education, injury, and treatment planning and implementation,

However, it also focuses on professional, personal, and family issues that impact a healthcare worker’s career and health.

For instance, they observe how employees are treated by management and their healthcare facilities.

It ensures nurses receive adequate support within their job roles and have a positive occupational outlook.

It also enables them to ensure nurses perform proficiently from a mental and emotional standpoint.

Below you can see some of the responsibilities occupational health care nurses perform regularly.

Occupational Responsibilities:

  • Oversee employee rights and safety procedures/protocols to ensure employees are treated fairly
  • Ensure employees have adequate rehabilitation programs if and when an injury or illness occurs
  • Observe and ensure that employees receive adequate healthcare benefits
  • Ensure that good healthcare services are implemented to treat employees needing medical care
  • Promote employee healthcare advocacy
  • Develop disease prevention programs
  • Discuss the importance of employee healthcare, treatment plans, and positive management training
  • Ensure that proper treatment is administered to employees with work-related Injuries and illnesses
  • Treat work-related injuries and illnesses
  • Maintain documentation of injuries and illnesses
  • Observe HAZMAT safety procedures and protocols
  • Ensure employees work in a safe and healthy environment
  • Conduct employee screenings and physical exams
  • Maintain OSHA complete documentation
  • Coordinate job-related vaccinations
  • Administer medications
  • Assist with employee-related medical claims

Where Do Occupational Health Nurses Work?

Occupational health nurses may work in many healthcare environments.

It includes hospitals, healthcare clinics, urgent care facilities, government facilities, and academic settings.

They also work for research centers, consulting and case management services, and other healthcare-related organizations.

Occupational Settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare clinics
  • Academic settings
  • Research centers
  • Consulting services
  • Case management services
  • Government facilities

An occupational health nurse’s responsibilities vary depending on their experience, skillset, and the employer’s needs.

Nevertheless, their job centers on improving employee performance, mental/emotional health, and policy reform.

How to Become an Occupational Health Nurse

There are numerous steps aspiring occupational health nurses must complete to acquire adequate training and work in this profession.

It includes joining a nursing program, obtaining an ADN or BSN, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, gaining work experience, and getting certified.

  • Join a nursing program
  • Obtain an ADN or BSN
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
  • Gain work experience
  • Get Certified

1. Join a Nursing Program

The first step to becoming an occupational health nurse is to join an accredited nursing program.

However, students must first obtain a GED or diploma to complete the necessary nursing school prerequisites.

Students must also maintain a good GPA to qualify for the nursing program.

Numerous nursing programs have strong competition, minimal requirements for entry, and limited seating.

Students can take prerequisites at an eligible college and join their nursing program or transfer credits to another school.

However, they must ensure they can transfer the credits if applying for a nursing program at a different university.

It takes roughly 1 – 3 years for most individuals to complete the prerequisite courses depending on previous education.

2. Obtain an ADN or BSN

After completing the necessary prerequisites and maintaining a good GPA, students can apply for the nursing program.

The nursing program typically offers students the option to pursue an ADN or BSN degree.

The ADN degree takes roughly 18 – 24 months to complete and provides fundamental education on nursing.

It enables students to quickly enter healthcare, obtain work experience and earn a living.

It also provides opportunities to explore nursing further before deciding on a specialization.

Nevertheless, an ADN degree provides the most basic education requirements to become a registered nurse.

Those who want to specialize in an area like occupational health nursing may want to pursue a BSN.

The BSN degree takes approximately 36 – 48 months to complete and provides a more compressive education.

It enables students to specialize in various non-entry-level jobs, take on more responsibilities and earn more money!

3. Pass the NCLEX-RN

At the end of the nursing program, graduates must take the NCLEX-RN exam.

The National Council of State Board of Nursing (NCSBN) administers the test in the United States and Canada.

This examination determines the competencies of nursing graduates.

It ensures they have a good foundation of nursing knowledge and can perform their duties effectively in the real world.

It’s also necessary to complete the examination to obtain licensure as a registered nurse. 

4. Get Work Experience

Obtaining work experience is essential in all healthcare domains, including occupational health nursing.

As a result, graduates and inexperienced nurses must obtain experience before applying for jobs in this specialization.

It’s highly beneficial that registered nurses acquire experience in the occupational health field.

It will help prepare them for more advanced roles as occupational health nurses and prepare them for certification.

Some certification programs also require considerable work experience in a related field before nurses can get certified.

For instance, the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses requires at least 3,000 hours of clinical experience in the occupational health domain.

5. Acquire Certification

After obtaining adequate experience, nurses can take the occupational health nurses certification to become certified.

There are two primary certifications for occupational health nurses, which include the COHN and COHN-S.

The American Board for Occupational Health Nurses develops these certifications.

These certifications ensure nurses have adequate training in occupational health and can perform their duties effectively.

Why Occupational Health Nurses are Essential

Many nursing areas focus on patient care and treatment.

However, those who work as occupational health nurses focus on employee care.

Occupational health nurses ensure healthcare professionals receive adequate medical care, support, and resources.

They also advocate for adequate rest and recovery, a quality work/life balance, and a safe and positive work environment.

Ultimately, occupational health nurses improve the performance and mental health of those in the healthcare industry.

They also improve the care and treatment of patients by enhancing the employee’s quality of life and career outlook.

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