How to Become an Occupational Health Nurse

How to Become an Occupational Health Nurse

Occupational health is an essential field that focuses on ensuring the safety, health, and overall welfare of people in employment settings. Occupational health nurses are registered nurses that focus on fostering a safe work environment and preventing injuries and illnesses that are job related.

What does an occupational health nurse do?

Occupational health nurses concentrate on helping organizations create safe workplaces and implement health and safety standards. They identify and prevent health effects from work hazards such as unsafe equipment, chemical exposures, unsanitary conditions, and unsafe handling of materials. They also inspect workplaces and enforce standards that are set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They provide monitoring and emergency care services and treat the injuries and illnesses of employees. Occupational health nurses interpret and assess the medical and occupational history of workers, explain medical diagnoses to the employee and employer, and document injury or illness. They also perform medical examinations on new employees, provide preventative health education, and train employees in first aid.

What kind of training does an occupational health nurse need?

Occupational health nurses must become a registered nurse by completing an associate degree or bachelor degree program in nursing. Most occupational health nurses have at least a bachelor degree. Many prospective occupational health nurses complete internships to gain practical experience in the field. All registered nurses must be licensed. Licensing requirements include minimum education and passing a national examination. Many occupational health nurses gain certification from the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses to demonstrate professional competency. Occupational health nurses must complete continuing education on a regular basis to keep their skills up to date and maintain their licenses and certifications.

What are the prospects for a career as an occupational health nurse?

Employment of all registered nurses is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 23% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing and aging population and increased emphasis on workplace safety will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be excellent especially for occupational health nurses with extensive experience. Many job openings will stem from the need to replace occupational health nurses that retire, transfer, or leave the profession for other reasons.

How much do occupational health nurses make?

As of December 2009, the middle 50% of occupational health nurses earn annual salaries between $60,190 and $74,185. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $81,096 (2).

A career as an occupational health nurse is a great choice for people with a strong interest in occupational health and providing care to a variety of workers. Occupational health nurses must have a solid knowledge of epidemiology related to a variety of worksites and the ability to recognize health effects from occupational hazards. Detail orientation, patience, critical thinking, and strong management skills are essential characteristics. Occupational health nurses must also have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to interact with a variety of people.

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