Nursing can be a very physically and emotionally demanding job, so it takes a caring and empathetic person with a strong sense of self and a good moral compass to succeed in this career track. Occupational Health Nurses require the same skills, but they also need a separate skill set all their own, because as an occupational nurse your specialized field is within the workplace. This means focusing on subjects such as injury and illness prevention in the workplace, as well as assisting in the launch of health and wellness programs to keep costs of healthcare lower and the health of workers higher. This could pertain to group fitness goals, policies that enforce proper sanitary conditions, and also safety measures such as first aid kits and manuals that explain how to deal with accidents in the office.
Becoming an Occupational Nurse
The job requirements for this position may alter slightly from state to state, but the foundation is the same across the board. You must be an RN, or registered nurse, which means attending nursing school at a state approved educational institution and continuing on to pass an exam that will qualify you to be licensed. RN’s can gain certification through a two year associate’s program, a three year diploma, or an undergraduate program that takes four years to complete. During this training nurses can specialize and take courses that are directly related to the field of occupational health, allowing you to specialize in your preferred field. If you’ve already completed your RN licensure and didn’t take any occupational nursing classes during this time, there is also an occupational health certification program that can be achieved through the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc., which provides a one hundred and fifty question examination regarding clinical health care within occupational nursing jobs. This might mean having clinical experience in the healthcare industry before applying for the certification, as it is only available to those nurses with 3,000 hours of experience, or RN’s who already hold an occupational health nursing certificate of some kind.
Courses That You May Require
Among registered nurses there are a number of courses that can be taken in order to ready you for a position within a corporation. Occupational Safety and Ergonomics is one, which helps focus on the relationship that workers share with their working environment. The principles of ergonomics, physiology and anatomy with a focus on the setup and design of the workplace in relation to lifting and posture are also covered. An Epidemiology Course is also available, and informs nurses on disease control and risk exposure with case studies and practicum experience in the workplace. Toxicology, with a glimpse into the many environmental agents within a working environment, and the effects of chemicals on the human body is also a course that an occupational nurse should look into. Finally, an Industrial Hygiene course gives insight into the potential risks that bad hygiene poses within the office and is an excellent way to stay on top of the learning curve, and ahead of the competition in your industry.
Career Positions and Outlook
Despite having the title of nurse, an occupational health nurse doesn’t necessarily reside in a hospital setting, although it is possible to find this particular title among healthcare professionals in a medical facility. Many nurses of this degree work within construction and manufacturing industries, where the chances of incurring an injury is a little higher than most. Some occupational nurses actually work on a consultant-style basis and are called in for job-related issues to provide treatment on site to staff that are hurt or sick. Overall, this field has shown wonderful growth and continues to grow faster than the average rate of most jobs in the healthcare industry. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, or the BLS has claimed that by the year 2020 there will be over seven hundred thousand new jobs on the horizon within this field, and with the median yearly salary for RN’s growing to over sixty-five thousand dollars, the prospects seem to be endless as far as experts can see, especially since this is a field that often faces shortages, which is a change from hospital settings where there is often too many nurses to keep staffed full time in many large cities.
Advancements In The Industry
Although it’s possible to gain certification as an occupational health nurse through an associate’s degree, work experience and the certification exam, most corporations are looking for nurses with high clinical experience and the equivalent of a graduate degree at the master’s level. For this reason, nurses with bachelor degrees, as well as certification courses, have a much easier time finding work, and also climbing the ladder of success within their industry. The reason that this extra education will get your farther is that you must be able to understand the possible negative health effects and treatments required within a number of occupations. Positions that require welding, heavy lifting, operating heavy machinery, and many other dangerous jobs must be made safe, and offered the highest quality of medical help if something goes wrong in their work setting. This is for the safety of the company, which could be at risk of a law suit, as well as for the health of the workers who could face serious and permanent damage if left unattended. Part of the job also requires health exams, screening tests, and keeping tabs on the medical history of your patients.
Types of Occupational Nurses
Within the field of occupational nursing there aren’t just levels of education, but levels of nursing positions as well. As an occupational nurse, you may work within a clinical field as a clinical nurse, or a clinical nurse manager or supervisor. You could also fall under the title of corporate nurse or work as a nursing consultant, which would mean that you would be contracted out for your professional knowledge. Other occupational nurses work within the educational system as nursing teachers at vocational college, or train within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for more learning experience.