Occupational health nurses offer health services in the workplace to employees, customers, and anyone else at the worksite who may have an injury or illness. They may prepare accident reports and provide emergency care. If further medical assistance is needed, they arrange for that to take place. They work to identify potential or acute health problems. They provide counseling and conduct health examinations and inoculations. They also tackle challenges of accessibility for disabled workers, productivity, and workers’ compensation issues. They work in many different types of facilities, from hospitals to manufacturing plants. Occupational health nurses combine knowledge of public health and nursing theory to attempt to create healthier workers. Because low employee health costs businesses upwards of $1 trillion per year, business leaders depend on occupational health nurses to maintain a health workforce.
Occupational health nurses need to have well-developed communication skills, and the ability to observe accurately and make decisions accordingly. They need to be able to honor the wishes of their patients. They must be willing to work with a team, as well as supervise others. Due to the intense nature of the work, occupational health nurses should be emotionally stable and have a sympathetic disposition.
In 2002, occupational health nurses earned a median annual salary of $48,090. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10 percent, who earned less than $33,970, and the highest 10 percent, who earned more than $69,670.
Training and Education
Occupational health nurses can become certified by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. (AAOHN). Certification involves 4,000 hours of work experience and 50 contact hours of continuing education. They must also become registered nurses (RNs) by earning their nursing license. In order to obtain a nursing license, which is required by all 50 States and the District of Columbia, students must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination.
Candidates have three different options for educational paths leading to certification as a registered nurse. The first option is obtaining a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN). BSN programs are offered through colleges and universities and take 4 years to complete,. The second option is an associate degree in nursing (ADN), offered through junior and community colleges, which takes 2 to 3 years to complete. The third option is a 3-year diploma program administered by hospitals. All three types of programs qualify students to be hired as a registered nurse, but BSNs provide graduates with the most opportunity for advancement within the nursing profession. In fact many nurses certified through ADN or diploma programs go on to enter bachelor’s programs. Click here to see a list of Nursing Schools, and/or to contact their admissions departments for more information.
In 2002, registered nurses, including occupational health nurses, held approximately 2.3 million jobs, making the occupation the largest in the healthcare field.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of occupational health nurses is expected to increase faster than the average. More new RN jobs are expected to be created than any other occupation, mostly because of the need to replace aging registered nurses as they leave the profession. Factors such as the growing elderly population, general growth of healthcare, rising median age of registered nurses, increased emphasis on preventative treatment, and technological advances will keep registered nurses, including home health nurses, in high demand.