Occupational Health Nurse - How to Become an Occupational Health Nurse

Occupational Health Nurse

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Occupational Health Nurse Job Description


Occupational health nurses (OHN) are responsible for evaluating the potential health and safety risks of workers. These are licensed registered nurses who are trained to assess the potential for harm at workplaces from hazardous substances or physical dangers, and they are also equipped to treat illnesses and injuries.

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Responsibilities

 

Occupational health nurses work with business owners to ensure that the workplace will be as safe as possible. Programs will be designed according to the type of work being done, the people working at the particular locale, and the requirements of the community and environment. The primary concern of the OHN is to assure that the workplace is safe by helping to institute cost-effective and preventive-orientated safety programs.

One of the more diverse of the nursing disciplines, OHNs can function as consultants, managers, case workers, or clinicians.

Their duties will involve:

  • Emergency preparedness and disaster planning

  • Environmental concerns

  • Disease management

  • Employee medical treatment

  • Emergency care for any injuries or illnesses that take place at work

OHNs also assist with worker rehabilitation after an accident and will advise about community resources that may be available.

Because a worker’s health does not stop at the workplace door, OHNs are happy to provide workers with information about taking more responsibility for their own lives, such as good eating habits, the best use of available medical services, and curtailing the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other mood changing substances.

Occupational health nurses research the effects of any potential workplace hazards that might have a deleterious effect on workers’ families and the community at large. It has been found that organizations that hire OHNs can actually reduce their operating costs since disability claims, worker injuries, and absenteeism are reduced, while the safety, health, and satisfaction of the workers rises.

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Skills

 

Physical Endurance

OHNs work on their feet all the time and need to be able to respond quickly to situations as they arise.

Stress Management

They must manage the stress and pressure that comes with their job.

Empathy

Being able to relate to patients on an emotional level and understand what they go through is super important for nurses because they are a primary contact for patients.

Organization

Must be able to situate tasks and documents so as not to mix up records or medications.

Communication

They must mediate between patients, their families and doctors, so they have to communicate clearly and relay information at a high level.

Patience

Becoming a nurse and advancing in the field takes time, so it's important to take it slow and easy and save yourself a ton of anxiety.

Detail-Oriented

OHNs have a ton of tasks they must perform, so they have to pay attention when they are multitasking to avoid error.

Critical Thinking

Must constantly be devising new ways of interacting with people, adapt to changes, and learn about the things a medical professional needs to know.

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Working Conditions


You can find occupational health nurses in a wide range of career slots, such as an educator in a classroom, a consultant for businesses, corporate director, or as a clinician. In most cases, being an OHN is a Monday to Friday job, with only minimal chances for working outside of regular hours.

 


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How to Become an Occupational Health Nurse:

 

The first prerequisite to becoming an occupational health nurse is to be a Licensed Registered Nurse (RN) or a Bachelor in Science of Nursing (BSN). The BSN degree is actually the more valuable, and can provide you with a wider range of career opportunities and an easier transition into OHN programs that can reward a Master's Degree. 

 

1. Earn an Associate's Degree (3 Years)

 

You can become an RN in three years through a nursing diploma program or associate degree program. Many community colleges offer Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs. Many new RNs will begin their education with an ADN program, then later advance to enrollment in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or master’s degree programs.

During your time you will take general education courses along with Anatomy, Nursing, Nutrition, Chemistry, and Microbiology. An ADN will allow you into entry-level nursing positions. 

 

2. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (2-4 Years)

 

Currently, there is a national push to require all nurses to hold a BSN degree. Research has concluded that patients experience better outcomes after illness or injury when they are under the care of nurses who are educated at the baccalaureate level in nursing. The current nursing workforce in the U.S. consists of 55 percent of nurses holding a baccalaureate degree or higher.

A conventional BSN program takes 4 years to complete. A popular movement now finds more and more colleges and universities offering students who already hold a bachelor’s in another field an accelerated route to nursing-program graduation. These accelerated BSN programs take between 12 to 18 months to complete. If you already have your RN from an Associates Degree, you can do the RN-to-BSN program in 2 to 3 years, which can open you up to more opportunity and growth. 

 

3. Complete OHN Training or Earn a Master's Degree

  

Education specific to occupational health nursing typically is offered on the graduate level through Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN). You will get the hands-on-training and class room instruction necessary to become an OHN. The program includes the following:

  • Health and behavior science

  • Policy and management

  • Regulatory compliance

  • Biostatistics

  • Program planning

  • Epidemiology

  • Toxicology

  • Ergonomics

  • Industrial hygiene

There are programs available for an accelerated master’s degree (MSN), which takes about three years to complete. More and more RN-to-MSN and BSN-to-Ph.D. programs are being launched as a way to meet the increasing demand for more highly educated nurses in the workforce.

Another accelerated program is being offered by an increasing number of four-year institutions. These programs, called articulation agreements, are formed in collaboration with community and junior colleges to enable associate degree nurses or bachelor’s degree nurses to effortlessly transition into BSN and MSN programs.

 

4. Earn the Required Certification

 

Regardless of the type of entry into practice program you attend, all graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam before they can become a registered nurse. The exam is administered by each state’s board of nursing. In order to take the test, you must first apply for your nursing license from your state board. Each state is different, so you must check to see if you meet all of the requirements for your state. 

The NCLEX covers the following:

  • Safe, effective care environment: Management care and safety and infection control

  • Psychosocial integrity: Coping and adaptation and psychosocial adaptation

  • Health promotion and maintenance: Growth and development through the life span and prevention and early detection of disease

  • Physiology integrity: Basic care and comfort, pharmacological and parenteral therapies, reduction of risk potential and physiological adaptation

Related: Top 10 Best NCLEX-RN Review Books

After that, you need to take the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. (ABOHN) voluntary certification for occupational health nurses. To qualify for the Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) designation, you must be an RN with at least 3,000 hours of occupational health nursing experience over five years.

To be eligible for ABOHN's COHN-Specialist (COHN-S) designation, you must be a RN with a BSN. You also must have 3,000 hours of experience, completion of an OHN certificate program or completion of a graduate degree program in occupational health nursing.

Regardless of which certification you take, you have to pass the test for them.  The COHN examination focuses on direct clinical care, while the COHN-S exam also tests your knowledge of case management, consultation, education and general management.

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Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
11.15.2016
The Occupational Health Nurse is the key health care provider serving Pardee Business and Industry Services. Working with the Medical Director and Signature Care, he/she will be primarily responsible for the successful operation of on-site...
10.18.2016
The Nurse Practitioner of Employee Health developments and manages the Health Program at Mass Eye and Ear sites to ensure regulatory compliance and to promote a healthy workplace for all workers. In addition, this individual is responsible for...
08.31.2016
12.05.2016
Oversees the daily operations/functions of the Employee Health Department. Provides care to the employees of FMC, focusing on the prevention and treatment of work-related illnesses, injuries and stresses. Educates employees on the benefits of...
12.05.2016
Coordinates on-site occupational health nurse management programs by developing, interpreting, and administering programs to achieve the goals and objectives related to the business need. Other information: Current RN license in Iowa or...
12.05.2016
The Occupational Health Medical Assistant serves full time under the direction of the Rehabilitation Services/Occupational Health Manager. The Medical Assistant works in concert with the Occupational Health Nurse Case Coordinator, the Physician...
12.09.2016
Department: Employee and Occupational HealthA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Employee and Occupational Health Nurse works with employees/employer to provide safe and quality medical care. The occupational health nurse uses a systematic...
  1. Occupational Health Nurse - Signature Care Hendersonville, NC Pardee Hospital
    The Occupational Health Nurse is the key health care provider serving Pardee Business and Industry Services. Working with the Medical Director and Signature Care, he/she will be primarily responsible for the successful operation of on-site...
  2. Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner Boston, MA Mass. Eye and Ear Infirmary
    The Nurse Practitioner of Employee Health developments and manages the Health Program at Mass Eye and Ear sites to ensure regulatory compliance and to promote a healthy workplace for all workers. In addition, this individual is responsible for...
  3. Occupational Health Nurse Supervisor, RN Indianapolis, IN Eskenazi Health
  4. Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner - Employee Wellness - Fulltime - Days Lancaster, OH Fairfield Medical Center
    Oversees the daily operations/functions of the Employee Health Department. Provides care to the employees of FMC, focusing on the prevention and treatment of work-related illnesses, injuries and stresses. Educates employees on the benefits of...
  5. RN Occupational Health (PRN) Cedar Rapids, IA UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital
    Coordinates on-site occupational health nurse management programs by developing, interpreting, and administering programs to achieve the goals and objectives related to the business need. Other information: Current RN license in Iowa or...
  6. Medical Assistant-Halifax Works Roanoke Rapids, NC Halifax Regional
    The Occupational Health Medical Assistant serves full time under the direction of the Rehabilitation Services/Occupational Health Manager. The Medical Assistant works in concert with the Occupational Health Nurse Case Coordinator, the Physician...
  7. Registered Nurse (Day) Employee and Occupational Health Job Rochester, MN Mayo Clinic - Rochester
    Department: Employee and Occupational HealthA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Employee and Occupational Health Nurse works with employees/employer to provide safe and quality medical care. The occupational health nurse uses a systematic...