The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses describes an occupational health nurse as someone who “provides for and delivers health and safety programs and services to workers, worker populations and community groups. The practice focuses on promotion and restoration of health, prevention of illness and injury, and protection from work-related and environmental hazards. Occupational and environmental health nurses have a combined knowledge of health and business that they blend with health care expertise to balance the requirement for a safe and healthful work environment with a ‘healthy’ bottom line.”
Occupational health nurses work with employers and employees to identify health and safety needs in the workplace. To meet those needs, occupational health nurses:
- Coordinate and deliver services and programs.
- Promote an interdisciplinary approach to health care and advocate for the employee’s right to prevention-oriented, cost-effective health and safety programs.
- Encourage workers to take responsibility for their own health through health education and disease management programs, such as smoking cessation, exercise/fitness, nutrition and weight control, stress management, control of chronic illnesses and effective use of medical services.
- Monitor the health status of workers, worker populations and community groups.
- Conduct research on the effects of workplace exposures, gathering health and hazard data.
Occupational health nurses work in manufacturing and production facilities, hospitals and medical centers as well as in other employment sectors, including government. Workplace activities might include health and wellness, case management, ergonomics, workplace safety, infection control, disaster preparedness and others such as travel health. Occupational health nurses fill a variety of roles in their jobs, including clinicians, case managers, educators, directors and consultants. The work schedule is typically Monday through Friday, but may vary, depending upon the work environment, position and responsibilities.
Salary Range and Outlook
According to the 2013 American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Compensation & Benefits Study, the average salary is $82,070.
Occupational health nurses must be licensed to practice in the states in which they are employed. Typically, nurses entering the field have a baccalaureate degree in nursing and experience in community health, ambulatory care, critical care or emergency nursing. Many occupational health nurses have obtained master’s degrees in areas such as public health, advanced practice or business, to name a few examples, to continue to build their professional competencies.
Certification in occupational health nursing is available through The American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. To become a certified occupational health nurse, you must be a registered nurse (RN) with an appropriate degree in nursing, have worked as an RN within the field of occupational health for at least 3,000 hours within the previous five years (or have participated in an occupational health nurse certificate program or graduate level education in occupational health) and pass a certification examination.
Learn More About a Career as an Occupational Health Nurse
- Take a look at The Career Guide to Occupational Health Nursing.
- Read these occupational health nurse profiles.
- American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
- American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc.