Things You Need To Know About Occupational Health Nurses

nursing job

Gone are the days when nursing was limited to providing bedside care to patients. At this age, nurses can now merge their passion and profession into one as the nursing profession now houses a number of specializations. Nurses can now work even outside hospitals and clinics. Yes, there’s so many to choose from, and one of which is occupational nursing. What exactly are occupational nurses and what do they do? Let’s find out.

Who are they?

For people who are interested in nursing and in promoting health in the workplace, this job might just be the right one for you.

Occupational health nurses are those registered nurses who specialize in caring for the health and wellbeing of people at work. They work closely with employers to make sure that health and safety standards are met, and are involved in maintaining the finest employee health.

These nurses work independently or on a team approach. With their specialized experience and education, they identify and prevent health risks from hazardous exposures and treat workers’ injuries and illnesses. Some occupational health nurses are based in large organizations, such as hospitals, local authorities, airlines or retail chains. They might also work with a private consultancy firm used by some smaller employers to give specialist, one-off advice.

With experience, OHNs could move into self-employment and work as an occupational health consultant. They could also progress into a management position, leading a team of occupational health staff or running an occupational health center. Furthermore, those interested in teaching could take additional qualifications to move into nurse training.

What do they do?

                It has been emphasized earlier that OHNs focus more on prevention rather than cure. As an OHN, you are to encourage better health and wellbeing in workers. Specifically, duties and responsibilities of an OHN include:

  • carrying out pre-employment medicals
  • assessing and treating employees who are injured or become ill at work
  • documenting employee injuries or illnesses
  • providing counselling and support to workers
  • giving health education and advice
  • advising on health and safety issues
  • giving sickness absence advice
  • carrying out risk assessments
  • appraising work environments
  • maintaining and analyzing employee health records and statistics
  • developing and managing emergency procedures
  • taking blood samples for testing and carrying out vaccinations.

According to the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), the average salary is $63,472.

How to become one

Since this is quite different from the tasks you do as a hospital nurse, a unique professional training is required. For one to become an occupational health nurse, you must first get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). After which, you can now start working as a Registered Nurse with at least 3,000 hours of experience in occupational health.

After which, you should then take the Occupational Health Nurse certification exam (COHN). Once you pass, you can now be considered as a Certified Occupational Health Nurse. You can also take a degree or postgraduate occupational health nursing program leading to registration as a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse.


Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

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