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Occupational Health Nurse

Overview

Occupational Health Nurses (OHN) are Registered Nurses who independently observe and assess workers' health status with respect to job tasks and hazards. Using their specialized experience and education, they recognize and prevent health effects from hazardous exposures and treat workers' injuries and illnesses. 

OHNs work with employers to develop innovative and business-compatible health and safety programs, in response to each organization's unique type of work, workforce, and work/community environments. They promote an interdisciplinary approach to health care and advocate for the employee's right to prevention-oriented, cost-effective health and safety programs.

The available roles in this profession are extremely diverse, covering any and all of the wide-ranging issues related to occupational health and safety.  OHNs work as clinicians, educators, case managers, corporate directors, or consultants.  They also have a broad array of responsibilties, including:

  • disease management
  • environmental health
  • emergency preparedness/disaster planning
  • employee treatment, follow-up and referrals
  • emergency care for job-related injuries and illnesses
  • gatekeeper for healthcare services
  • rehabilitation, return-to-work issues

OHNs counsel workers about work-related illness and injuries and emotional and/or family problems.  They refer clients to employee assistance programs and/or other community resources, and handle and coordinate follow-up care.

They also develop health education and disease management programs that encourage workers to take responsibility for their own health, such as smoking cessation, exercise/fitness, nutrition and weight control, stress management, control of chronic illnesses and effective use of medical services.

Occupational Health Nurses monitor the health status of workers, worker populations and community groups by conducting research on the effects of workplace exposures, gathering health and hazard data.

Organizations have good reason to hire Occupational Health Nurses, because these highly skilled health professionals help maximize employee productivity and reduce costs by effectively lowering disability claims, reducing on-the-job injuries and absenteeism, and improving employee health and safety.

Working Conditions

The work environment for Occupational Health Nurses is as varied as their roles, ranging from classroom (educator) to boardroom (corporate director) to clinic (clinician, case manager, NP) to business setting (consultant).  The work schedule is usually M-F, but may vary, depending upon the work environment, position, and responsibilities.  According to the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), the average salary is $63,472.

NOTE:

This overview has been prepared and approved by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN).

Academic Requirements

To apply to an Occupational Health Nursing program, you first must hold an RN or BSN degree.  Your OHN training may lead to a Master's or doctoral degree, depending upon the program. Search for schools that provide training for this career.

After completing your education, you may sit for the national certification exam to become a Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN).