What is Occupational Health Nursing?

Occupational health nursing is a unique area of nursing that combines nursing theory, public health and occupational safety in one single profession. If you would like to work in nursing but you would prefer not to work in a hospital, doctors office or other type of healthcare setting, you may want to consider the advantages of specializing in occupational health where you can use your innovative thinking skills and enjoy independence that not all nurses enjoy.

Before you jump into majoring in nursing and minoring occupational health, you should familiarize yourself with the duties of nurses in this branch of nursing. It takes the right person and the right skill set to succeed in such a competitive field. Read on, and find out what occupational health nurses do daily and what you must do to enter this subset.

What Does an Occupational Health Nurse (OHN) Do?

The primary role of an OHN is to observe and then assess the health of workers based on their roles and their tasks. As a registered nurse with specialized experience, OHN nurses are highly trained to observe independently and make recommendations to employers on how to eliminate hazards so that illnesses and injuries can be prevented.

In addition to making recommendations for health and safety programs, the OHN will help with emergency and disaster planning, employee treatment following of job-related injury, rehabilitation, and worker’s compensation issues. Some OHN’s will also work with clinicians, educators and community agencies in an effort to develop innovate health programs that can benefit people in a community. As an OHN, you are not just a nurse but also a counselor, a gatekeeper, a strategist, and an advocate.

Where Do OHN Specialists Work?

If you specialize in occupational health and safety and are a registered nurse, you can work in several different settings. It is very common to work directly for a business or an industrial site, but you may also work for a higher education institution where you will be an educator. While it is not as common, some OHN’s will work as case managers or clinicians in a clinic. If you want to work in the setting in which you have the most control and the greatest amount of independence, then you can work as a consultant and help develop health and safety plans for several corporations.

How to Become an Occupational Health Nursing Specialist

To become an OHN, you will need to become a registered nurse with a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Once you have a BSN, you can study to become a Certified Occupational Health Nurse or a Specialist. Before you can earn the COHN or COHN-S credential, you will need to pass the national certification exam through the American Board of Occupational Health Nurses. This will test you on your knowledge of OSHA laws and health safety systems. Once you pass the exam, you are required to take continuing education to keep your certification.

The average salary reported for OHN’s is $63,472. If you are interested in taking on the roles of an OHN and you are ready to get certified, it is time to begin studying. Be sure to check work experience and degree requirements in your state, and then you can earn your COHN to show you are a specialist in occupational health nursing.