Do you want to work as a nurse caring for employees and improving the safety of their workplaces? Would you like to counsel workers? Are you compassionate and organized? Read on to learn more about the field of occupational and environmental health nursing.
According to the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), the practice of occupational and environmental health nursing involves providing safety and health programs to workers, working to prevent injuries from work hazards and promoting lifestyle changes to improve worker's health. This field, which is commonly known as occupational health nursing (OHN), includes a wide variety of possible jobs. As an OHN, you may work to ensure regulatory compliance on the part of employers, treat workers in the workplace or review workplaces for hazards and make recommendations for improvements. You may also counsel employees, design corporate health programs or coordinate the care of injured workers.
In order to work in this field, you will need to have excellent interpersonal and communications skills. You will also need to be highly detail oriented. Most OHNs earn degrees in nursing in order to become qualified as registered nurses (RNs). Occupational health nurse practitioners generally hold master's degrees and occasionally doctoral degrees in nursing.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2010, wages for RNs has a median salary of $64,690 (www.bls.gov). Employment opportunities were expected to grow by 22%, which is much faster than average, between 2008 and 2018. In 2008, there were 2.8 million RNs employed, the majority of whom were employed by hospitals.
Nurses generally enter the field by earning a 2-year associate's degree, 3-year nursing diploma or a 4-year bachelor's degree. Coursework in nursing will include anatomy and physiology, psychology and microbiology. You will need to be licensed by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.
Certificate programs in occupational and environmental health nursing are offered by many colleges and include coursework in industrial hygiene, occupational health, industrial toxicology and epidemiology. At both the bachelor's and master's degree levels, specialized programs in either environmental or occupational health nursing are available, and can generally be done partially online.
The American Board for Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN) credentials nurses as certified occupational health nurses (COHN) or certified occupational health nurse-specialists (COHN-S). COHN certification is available for nurses who successfully complete an exam and have either 3000 hours of related work experience or a certificate in occupational health. This certification focuses mostly upon direct care.
The COHN-S certification is available for nurses with bachelor's degrees or higher. It requires either 3000 hours of work experience, certification in occupational health nursing or graduate level education with a concentration in occupational health. This certification focuses more on health care management, education and consultation.