Occupational health nurses are registered nurses who specialize in caring for the employees within an organization. Also known as employee health nurses, OHNs treat workers’ injuries and illnesses and promote safety and wellness in the workplace. Occupational health nursing can be a rewarding career path for nurses wanting to work in a diverse work environment outside of a hospital bedside setting. Major occupational health nursing benefits include greater flexibility and a better work-life balance.
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Occupational Health Nurse FAQs
What does an Occupational Health Nurse do?
Occupational health nurses help prevent injuries and illnesses by identifying possible health hazards in the work environment and working with employers and employees to ensure state and federal health and safety mandates are met. OHNs provide basic first aid and direct nursing care when injuries or illnesses occur. Other duties and responsibilities can vary based on the specific work environment and tasks assigned by the employer but may include:
Performing physical examinations
Conducting physical examinations to determine work-related ailments
Providing initial diagnoses for medical conditions
Documenting workplace injuries and illnesses
Managing workers’ compensation claims and records
Maintaining employee health records
Preventing the spread of diseases
Administering job-related vaccinations
Guiding employees to mental health resources
Developing health and safety policies and procedures
Ensuring the company is current on public health and employment safety legislations
Staying current on Occupational Safety and Health Act standards
Maintaining OSHA compliant logs and documents
Educating employees on preventing occupational hazards
Promoting cost-effective health and safety programs
Conducting vision and hearing tests
Completing drug or alcohol screenings
Hosting health-related programs on healthy eating, exercise, smoking cessation, etc.
Where do occupational health nurses work?
Occupational health nurses can work for any company that employs numerous employees and has its own occupational health department. These companies may include manufacturing plants, textile mills, large department stores, major banks, oil refineries, food processing plants, and utility companies. They may also work for government entities, schools and universities, and the military. Some OHNs remain in healthcare settings and may be employed by hospitals, urgent care clinics, and outpatient clinics. OHNs may also work on a consulting basis out of a private practice.
What skills make a good occupational health nurse?
Good occupational health nurses have comprehensive knowledge of OSHA regulations and workers’ compensation laws. They possess excellent interpersonal, communication, and observational skills with the ability to remain calm and manage emergencies and crisis situations efficiently. Good OHNs have superb assessment skills with well-rounded nursing skills to tackle a variety of medical issues. Successful OHNs are patient, compassionate, and supportive, which allows them to build rapport with employees and work effectively within these groups.
How to become an Occupational Health Travel Nurse
The first step towards a career as an OHN is to become a registered nurse by graduating with an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. Applicants should have at least two years of bedside nursing experience and obtain Basic Life Support certification before transitioning into occupational health.
Many employers prefer hiring OHNs with a BSN and professional certifications. The American Board for Occupational Health Nurses issues credentials for Certified Occupational Health Nurse or Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist after completing 3,000 hours in occupational health nursing and passing an exam. COHNS certification requires a BSN. Individual employers may require additional training or experience.