Occupational Health Nurse

What Is an Occupational Health Nurse?

According to the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, an occupational health nurse is a nursing professional who seeks to "provide for and deliver health and safety programs and services to workers, worker populations and community groups." In some cases, occupational health nurses may be referred to as occupational and environmental health nurses (OHNs) because they work closely alongside employers and employees to ensure that workers stay safe in their workplace environment. While many people seem to think that only some workplaces are hazardous, this simply isn't the case. There are hazards in every kind of workplace, from restaurants to construction sites. Workplace hazards can be anything from employee carelessness, machinery, falling objects, chemicals, or computer screens. Occupational health nurses' knowledge of business and health allows them to promote a safe and healthy workplace environment while also preserving a company's bottom line.

What Are Some Occupational Health Nurse Duties?

Tasks and duties which are commonly carried out by occupational health nurses include:

  • Monitor and assess the health status of workers, worker populations, and community groups
  • Develop innovative health and safety programs
  • Oversee and implement disaster and emergency preparedness planning
  • Perform drug and alcohol screenings as well as vision and hearing tests
  • Administer medication
  • Environmental health planning
  • Develop and administer disease prevention programs which promote healthy eating, smoking cessation, and exercise
  • Perform physical examinations
  • Observe workers on the job to assess health status and determine risks
  • Carry out research on the effects of workplace exposures
  • Document and tend to employee injuries and illnesses that occur in the workplace
  • Work alongside executives to lower costs of disability claims and other related expenses
  • Act as a gatekeeper for different healthcare services like disability and rehabilitation
  • Counsel employees on both psychological and physical health concerns and guide them toward the necessary resources or programs

Where Do Occupational Health Nurses Work?

Occupational health nurses often find employment in the following:

  • Healthcare clinics
  • Self-employment
  • Corporations
  • Consulting agencies

How to Become an Occupational Health Nurse

Before you can become an occupational health nurse, you'll need to obtain the required nursing degree and RN license. Prospective occupational health nurses must also gain some experience in the specialty field of occupational health nursing or complete an occupational health certificate program before sitting for the certification exam, which is administered by the American Board of Occupational Health Nurses.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

To become an occupational health nurse, the following educational requirements must be met:

  • Earn an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN prelicensure exam
  • Hold an active and unrestricted RN license
  • Complete an occupational health certificate program

Do Occupational Health Nurses Need an RN Degree?

Yes, occupational health nurses are required to hold active and unrestricted RN licenses. They should also have acquired the occupational health certification credential that can be gained through the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses.

Step 2: Required Occupational Health Nurse Certifications/Credentials

Individuals can gain certifications in occupational health nursing through the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses. To be eligible to for the Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) credential examination, you will need to have following requirements fulfilled prior to registering for the exam:

  • Hold an ADN or BSN degree from an accredited college or university
  • Hold an active and unrestricted RN license
  • Have at least 3,000 hours of experience as a nurse in the occupational health sector in the previous five years OR have completed an occupational health certificate program

Occupational Health Nurse Jobs, Salary & Employment

The demand for occupational health nurses is on the upswing as employers try to find new ways to cut costs and remain up-to-date with employment laws. If you wish to work in a desirable specialty area that's currently flourishing in today's job market, a career as a Certified Occupational Health Nurse may be for you.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Excellent communication skills, teaching abilities, assessment skills, critical thinking, organizational skills, and strong attention to detail
  • Job Outlook - Projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics predict the number of job openings for RNs to increase by about 16% between 2014 and 2024. It's quite likely that job growth within the occupational health nursing sector will mirror the traditional nursing sector.

What Is the Average Salary of an Occupational Health Nurse?

According to PayScale.com, the average yearly salary of an occupational health nurse is approximately $70,689. Some key factors that will contribute to the earning potential of an occupational nurse include things like employer, experience level, credentials held, and the city and state of employment. In most cases, in addition to their annual salaries, occupational nurses will also receive benefits like health insurance which generally will include medical, dental, vision, and prescription. Retirement and life insurance plans may be available. It's customary for most employers to provide occupational nurses with some annual paid time-off/sick leave.

How Much Do Occupational Health Nurses Make per Year?

  • $53,000 – $90,000 annually

How Much Do Occupational Health Nurses Make per Hour?

  • $31.37 average hourly wage

Occupational Health Nurse Resources