Occupational Health Nursing Career

Occupational health nurses (OHN) are registered nurses whose job revolves around workforce health. It is a varied job with many responsibilities. Every year, thousands of U.S. workers suffer severe illness, injury or death on the job or because of their job. This important nursing specialty focuses on assessing risk and potential hazards in work environments, preventing them, and managing and treating cases where injury or illness has occurred. Their goal is to prevent unneeded exposure to such hazards. Their efforts protect not only employees, but also corporations seeking to maximize the safety of their work environment and to manage risk and keep costs down. Ultimately OHNs maximize productivity for companies and ensure that their employees are productive and healthy. Their efforts help reduce absenteeism, on-the-job injuries, and illness claims. According to the American Association of Occupational Health Nursing (AAOHN) “occupational health nursing creates a positive economic impact through worker health and well being leading to optimal performance.”

Occupational health nurses can work as educators, clinicians, consultants, or case managers, to name a few roles. They can work in manufacturing, construction, the food industry, and even the healthcare industry, to name a few examples of fields where their expertise is needed. Some job duties include working with employers to develop safety and health programs, identifying risks, and finding solutions. They also are responsible for recording complaints, treating patients with illness or injuries, performing screenings or tests, evaluating medical histories or medical complaints, giving examinations, inoculations, and documenting illnesses or injuries. Sometimes they educate employees in health, nutrition and fitness or offer counseling. They are registered nurses who must possess an expansive knowledge about first aid and emergency medicine, as well as environmental health, toxicology, epidemiology, and disease management.

Training and Certification Requirements for Occupational Health Nurses

The first step toward becoming an OHN is to become a registered nurse. You can pursue your associate degree in nursing, which generally requires only two years, or earn a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing, which will require four. Once you complete your nursing degree through a community college, vocational school, or university or college, you must earn your license in the state you will practice in. Once you are a registered nurse, pursuing certification for this specialty is the best option. Certification is offered through the American Board for Occupational health Nurses (ABOHN). Unlike becoming a registered nurse, certification for this specialty is voluntary. However, gaining the extra training and earning your certification is well worth the effort. You would not only be gaining more knowledge and be better prepared to enter the field, but you would be increasing your competitiveness in the job market and demonstrating to potential employers your commitment and expertise. Certification commands not only more earning power, but also more respect and increases your chance of advancement. It involves enrolling in a certification course and passing the exam given by ABOHN. If you pass, you will become a certified occupational health nurse (COHN). With a bachelor or higher degree and a certification, you can become a certified occupational health nurse specialist (COHN-S).

Occupational Health Nurse Job Outlook and Salary Potential

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for the occupational health nurses is $65,903. This can of course vary according to experience, employer, and location, among other factors. As you advance in this career, your salary can also increase greatly. The average salary for a head occupational nurse jumps to $74,536. The outlook for this profession, as with most nursing careers, is very good. The nation is facing an impending shortage of nurse as the growing aging population places greater strain in the healthcare system. Additionally, healthcare and nursing are becoming more and more specialized, and gaining training in a more specific area is a way to secure a successful future for you in nursing. Advancement is also an option in occupational health nursing. You can earn a master of science degree in occupational health nursing, or become an occupational health nurse practitioner. Whatever path you choose, get started now on either your nursing degree or your certification, and a secure career in occupational health nursing can be in your future.

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(Sources: aaohn.org, osha.gov, abohn.org, salary.com)

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