Understanding nursing specialties: occupational health nursing

August 11, 2015

Occupational health nurses (OHNs) are registered nurses who focus on workforce health. Unlike traditional nurses who work in healthcare settings and care for patients who are ill or injured, OHNs work in large organisations and they have a different range of responsibilities. These nurses focus on the general health of employees within an organisation and study different trends of illnesses and risks among employees.

Detailed job description

Employees in different workplaces are often at risk for different types of injuries or illnesses depending on the type of job they do. For example, those who do physical work may be at higher risk for back injuries. Companies seek to manage these risks and create a safe and healthy environment for the employees. This job is passed on to occupational health nurses. OHNs handle creating a healthy, injury-free work environment that will help increase productivity, reduce injuries and illnesses and decrease the amount of absenteeism at the workplace.

Occupational health nurses assess potential risks and hazards that may occur in different work environments and develop effective plans to prevent these risks from becoming an actuality. If injury or illness has already occurred, these nurses develop effective treatment plans to manage and treat the injury or illness.

Within an organisation, an OHN may work as an educator, consultant, case manager or clinician. They work as a link between the employer and employees to identify risks, find solutions to these risks and create safety plans in organisations. They may have to work in different kinds of industries such as the food industry, manufacturing, construction, aviation or even mining.

In this role, you would also have to take on various related duties such as treating employees of the company you are working with, recording complaints, recording medical histories, and documenting findings related to illnesses.

Educational requirements and certification

If you are keen on pursuing a career as an OHN, the first thing you need to do is become a registered nurse. You can do this either by completing a two-year associate’s degree in nursing or a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Once your basic nursing education is complete, you can get your nursing license and start to practice as a qualified nurse. To work as an occupational health nurse, you should have a lot of knowledge in areas such as toxicology, disease management, emergency medicine, first aid and environmental health. Certifications in Occupational Health are available for those who want to increase their knowledge in the field.

Job opportunities and salary expectations

The outlook for jobs in the field of nursing is very good. Most studies show that the demand for nurses will grow in the next five years as more and more companies are forced to improve their safety standards in order to reduce liability and legal claims. Salaries in this field are not fixed and vary greatly depending on the size of the organisation and whether it is located in a large city or a smaller rural area.