Occupational health nursing is an entire specialty within the nursing field dedicated to the safety and health of employees in a workplace. Occupational health nurses (OHN) specialize in health and safety in industrial, corporate, academic, and governmental settings. They are responsible for delivering health and safety programs to be implemented by the organization or company they work for. They have knowledge relating to health and business, which enables them to uphold a secure and healthy work environment while helping the company’s bottom line. Their main objective is to promote the health of the workforce by preventing ailments and injuries and protecting them from environmental and occupation-related hazards.
OHNs work in diverse roles, depending on the type of establishment they work for. They have to tend to injuries, administer medication, perform physical examinations and vision and hearing tests, and provide rehabilitation therapy and counseling after a workplace injury. They can be called to investigate the circumstances surrounding an incident when an employee claims that a particular injury or illness is work-related. From inspecting an employee’s medical records to conclude whether the injury or illness they suffered was caused by a hazard inherent to the workplace environment to administering alcohol and other drug tests to investigate the causes of workplace injuries, occupational health nurses have diverse roles.
They are sometimes also responsible for screening potential employees to assess their ability to perform the given work.
More and more companies are now prioritizing taking precautions to avoid injury and illnesses at the workplace. This is why career prospects in this field are growing quickly, and it’s not surprising that occupational health nurse salary is usually excellent.
Here are the steps you need to take to enter this field and start working as an occupational health nurse.
Graduate With a BSN
In order to become an occupational health nurse, the first step is to obtain a degree in nursing. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is accomplished by completing a minimum of four years of education after acquiring your high school diploma or a GED.
An associate degree in nursing is also sufficient, but the nursing program must be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). You will learn about biological and social sciences, medical and surgical nursing, and professional ethics during your education. You will also obtain some hands-on experience and graduate as a generalist nurse.
Become a Registered Nurse
After getting your bachelor’s degree in nursing, you have to become a registered nurse. You can register for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) at their official website. You will also find a lot of resources for your test preparation. You can find out what you need to do before appearing in the exam, along with details and important tips for the exam day.
NCLEX test plan outlines all the material students are tested on during the exam, so you can prepare accordingly. A passing grade is required for you to become a registered nurse. Since this is a national exam, you can take it in any state, regardless of where you want to practice as a nurse.
Gain Relevant Experience
To become an occupational health nurse, you can complete one of the two certifications offered: COHN or COHN-S. B
These certifications vary a little in terms of roles you will be eligible to fill, but both require you to have gained at least 3000 hours of experience as an occupational health nurse in the past five years. Once you have acquired the necessary expertise, you are eligible to appear for a certification exam.
There are two core credentials that you may pursue to become an occupational health nurse. Both COHN and COHN-S certifications require you to hold a current and active RN license and have 3000 hours of experience in occupational health nursing in the past five years. However, COHN-S also requires you to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
A COHN credential focuses on clinical practice, and with this certification, you will be working as a clinician, advisor, coordinator, or case manager. A COHN-S certificate is more focused on administration and will allow you to work as a manager, clinician, educator, case manager, or consultant.
To get certified, you will need to get a passing score in the national examination. There are 190 sites throughout the US where you can appear for this examination. Tests are computer-based and consist of multiple-choice questions you will have to answer within three hours. The application fee is $150 or more, and the exam fee is approximately $400. If successful, you will become certified by the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. Recertification is required every five years, and the renewal fee is around $150.
An occupational health nurse delivers the health and safety programs needed to run an establishment safely and effectively. Their practice focuses on restoring health and preventing injury and illness resulting from work-related hazards. They provide their care and expertise to workers and their employers and work with both groups to ensure a healthy, safe, and productive work environment.
OHNs are not restricted to working in a medical facility; they can work in any place that employs a large number of people and has a health department. To become an occupational health nurse, you should earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and appear for the NCLEX to become a registered nurse. After acquiring a minimum of 3000 hours of experience in an OHN role, you are eligible to appear for your certification exam. Certification will lead to many new opportunities for advancement in your career, as it demonstrates your expertise, knowledge, and competence in the field. Certification is recognized by regulatory agencies and the industry as a sign of excellence and proves that you are committed to lifelong learning. Apart from being a personal and professional achievement, it also demonstrates your commitment to your profession. It will set you apart from other candidates whenever you apply for a new job and will lead to a raise and promotion in your current position.