What Is An Occupational Health Nurse?
An occupational nurse is a registered nurse, or RN, that has received additional training. This additional training qualifies him or her to work in the workplace setting observing the hazards that occur in these settings. In addition they aim to actively prevent such hazards from occurring and treat any injuries that occur as a result of any hazards observed or experienced in the work setting in which they are employed as a nurse.
Nature Of The Work/duties
According to http://www.learn4good.com/nursing/occupational_health_nurse_programs.htm, occupational health nurses are responsible for the following duties:
- Recognizing and preventing hazards in the work place.
- Treating injuries encountered by workers.
- Educating employers and employees on personal protective equipment.
- Assessing the work environment.
- Informing employees and employers of common workplace illnesses and injuries.
- Documenting illnesses and injuries.
- Educating employers on the law in relation to Occupational Health.
As you can see this nursing specialty goes beyond simply treating a patient. It involves actively trying to prevent injuries from occurring. You will be partially responsible for ensuring that a working environment is a safe one in which to work and your job will entail a huge responsibility as you will be turned to in the case of any injury or illness that may occur in that setting.
As an occupational health nurse there are a variety of different settings in which you may be employed:
- You can be employed in schools
- You can be employed at construction sites
- You can be employed at factories
- You can be employed in hospitals
- You can be employed in offices
- You can work as an independent consultant
- You can work for the government
This is a good career path to pursue for any nursing professionals who are not interested in working in a normal nursing setting, such as a nursing home, and who would like to branch out. It is also a line of work that comes with a higher degree of professional recognition and respect, making it a fairly popular line of work for nursing professionals to choose.
Occupational Health Nurse Requirements
There are a number of fairly basic requirements that you will have to meet in order to be an occupational health nurse. These requirements are as follows:
- To start off with you need to be someone who will really hard in order to stand out among your peers as there is a lot of competition for the limited spaces available in nursing schools.
- You will need to enter and pass a nursing training program. This program needs to end in a BSN in nursing. You can either start at a certificate school and get your LPN qualification and then transfer to university to complete your degree, or you can complete the entire program at university. Either way will take about 4 years in total.
The top personality traits required by an occupational health nurse are:
- Communication Skills
- Attention to Detail
Empathy is required in any nursing job as you will be working with people who are physically and emotionally vulnerable and who need and understanding presence to guide them through this difficult time. Communication skills are essential as you will need to communicate with patients, the families of your patients, your colleagues, and perhaps even the general public. As an occupational health nurse you will also have to communicate with the business owners and so on. Attention to detail is essential in order to avoid mistakes and to prevent disasters in the workplace where you are employed. Because there are many things that fall into this specialization, you must be flexible and adaptable.
There are a number of educational requirements that you will have to adhere to if you want to be an occupational health nurse. Firstly you will need to have an RN qualification. In addition you will need additional training. There are a number of qualifications that you can choose from:
- Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN).
- Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist (COHN-S).
- Certified Occupational Health Nurse/Case Manager (COHN/CM).
- Certified Occupational Health Nurses-Specialist/Case Manager (COHN-S/CM).
- Certified Occupational Health Nurse/Safety Manager (COHN/SM).
- Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist/Safety Manager (COHN-S/SM).
It is essential that you consult with your state board of nursing regarding any additional requirements in your state as there are often differing laws in this regard. As with all other aspects and arenas of nursing you may find that there are stark differences from state to state.
Once you have passed the above mentioned training programs and received the appropriate qualification you will be required to become licensed as an occupational health nurse. This is done through your state board of nursing. To do this you must pass a licensing exam from the state in which they wish to practice. In addition there are generally relicensing laws that must be adhered to on a regular basis. You may, for example, have to present proof of continuing education when relicensing yourself. In addition you must remember to maintain your RN license as this is also a necessity in order to practice as an occupational health nurse in any state. These licenses also require recertification and renewal on a regular basis and this, too, cannot be neglected.
How To Become An Occupational Health Nurse
Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications
In summary it is a fairly straightforward process to train as an occupational health nurse:
- Complete general education courses – these will be included in a nursing program and are an essential first step in your training process.
- Finish nursing school – the school must be accredited and prepare you for the necessary examination.
- Obtain a nursing license – to obtain your RN license you must sit the NCLEX-RN examination and pass adequately.
- Pursue a master’s degree in nursing with a specialization in occupational health – you will need at least a master’s degree if you wish to specialize in this area of nursing.
- Get certified in occupational health nursing from a certifying agency such as the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses – there is no license to be an occupational health nurse, but you need certification.
Source An Accredited Education Program
It is essential that you attend an accredited program if you want to be an occupational health nurse. This is because there are a number of programs out there that are not, in fact, genuine opportunities for students who want to be involved in this arena of the health care field. If the RN program or the occupational health program that you attend is not accredited you will be unable to sit the relevant examinations and therefore be unable to receive the necessary qualifications to become an occupational health nurse unless you start a completely different program from scratch. The best way to determine whether or not a program is accredited is to consult with your state’s board of nursing. If the program is not on their list, it is not accredited.
Earn Your Associate’s Degree
Earning your associate’s degree is a good starting point when becoming an occupational health nurse, but ultimately you will need to hold a master’s degree if you are to be properly certified and licensed as a in this particular area of nursing specialization. Although it is possible to be an RN with just an associate’s degree you, if at some point during your RN career decide that you want to specialize in occupational health, will have to go back to school and complete your qualification so that you are an RN that holds a master’s degree in nursing. This will take anything between 2 and 4 years, depending on the level of education that you have before you enroll in the master’s degree program. Bridging courses are available to make things a little easier for you.
Obtain Your Licensure
In order to be certified as an occupational health nurse you need to specialize in the area of occupational health. This can be done in two main ways:
- Work 3,000 hours in 5 years in health nursing, OR
- Complete a certificate program in occupational health nursing (this is often offered as a post-graduate degree program).
After doing this you will have to pass the Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist (COHN-S) in order to become properly certified and licensed as an occupational health nurse. You will have to regularly recertify to maintain your qualification as an occupational health nurse. To do this you must complete:
- 3,000 hours of occupational health work experience
- 50 Continuing Nursing Education hours in occupational health practice
This recertification should occur once every five years that you are employed.
Online/Distance Education Programs
There are a number of schools that offer online training in order to become an occupational health nurse. Online training can be more convenient although it does not suit everyone. The top schools with their qualifications are:
- Oakland University School of Nursing: Occupational Health Certificate
- University of North Carolina Online: Master of Public Health in Occupational Health Nursing
- UNC Gillings School of Public Health: Occupational Health Nursing Certificate
- University of South Florida: Occupational Health Nursing
Online certificate programs allow nurses to complete professional graduate-level studies on a part-time basis while continuing to work full-time which is why they are so popular. Often there may be a requirement in your state that you complete a certain amount of hands-on training as well, but this is not always the case.
As with all other nursing professions the job outlook for the average occupational health nurse is extremely good. Because this is a line of work that is always growing and in which there is a high demand for professionals, it is a highly stable job as well. Occupational health nurses are becoming more and more common in businesses and office blocks as the health and safety requirements become more intense. Consequently this is a line of work that represents great job stability and in which you will always be guaranteed of employment. As an occupational health nurse you also need to have basic RN training. This means that you will also have the opportunity to work as a regular RN in any health care setting should you be, for some unlikely reasons, unable to find work in the occupational health sector.
On average an occupational health nurse will earn more than $69,000 a year. This is not a bad salary at all. To be more specific you can earn between $47,706 and $78,121 a year on average. If you get a bonus it will be between $0.00 and $5,106.
Your earnings are also affected by the degree that you have:
- Bachelor’s Degree = $47,678 – $81,974 per year
- Associate’s Degree = $48,280 – $75,316 per year
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN = $52,540 – $84,439 per year
Popular industries for occupational health nurses include:
- Healthcare = $45,259 – $79,686 per year
- Manufacturing and Distribution = $46,299 – $80,442 per year
- Health Insurance = $46,713 – $78,490 per year
- Food Manufacturing = $46,892 – $81,412 per year
- Health Clinic = $44,124 – $77,982 per year
If you are considering a nursing specialty, occupational health is one of the better options that you could choose. This is not only because of the high salaries that you can earn relative to a regular RN. You will also have a position of esteem in a business setting and your skills will be sought after. Job stability is something to strive towards in an economically unstable global environment, and with a specialty in occupational health nursing you can be guaranteed that this is what you will find. There are many options out there in terms of nursing specialties, but becoming an occupational health nurse is one of the better ones.