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Occupational Health nursing as a Career

Overview

As a healthcare professional, you care about the health and safety of others. Turn that passion into a career that returns employees to their homes and families better than when they arrived at work.

As an occupational and environmental health nurse, you’ll deliver 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 (OHNs) bring a combined knowledge of health and business that they blend with healthcare expertise to balance the requirement for a safe and healthful work environment with a “healthy” bottom line.

As an OHN, you will:

  • Empower employees to do their jobs safely
  • Build deep connections with your patients
  • Stay current in the ever-evolving world of healthcare

Watch the videos below to hear current OHNs share why they love what they do.



Role of Occupational and Environmental Nurses

The roles of OHNs are as diverse as clinicians to educators, case managers to corporate directors and consultants. The OHN’s responsibilities have expanded immensely to encompass a wide range of job duties, including but not limited to:

Case Management

OHNs routinely coordinate and manage the care of ill and injured workers. Their roles as case managers have grown more sophisticated with the coordination and management of work-related and non-work-related injuries and illnesses, which include aspects related to group health, workers’ compensation, and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and short-term/long-term disability benefits.

Counseling and Crisis Intervention

Besides counseling workers about work-related illnesses and injuries, OHNs often counsel for issues such as substance abuse, psychosocial needs, wellness/health promotion concerns, and other health or work-related concerns. They may also assume primary responsibility for managing employee assistance programs or handling referrals to employee assistance programs and/or other community resources, and coordinate follow-up.

Health Promotion and Risk Reduction

OHNs design programs that support positive lifestyle changes and individual efforts to lower risks of disease and injury and the creation of an environment that provides a sense of balance among work, family, personal, health, and psychosocial concerns. Immunization, smoking cessation, exercise/fitness, nutrition and weight control, stress management, monitoring of chronic diseases, and effective use of medical services are just a few of the preventive strategies to keep workers healthy and productive.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Worker and Workplace Hazard Detection

Worker and Workplace Hazard Detection: OHNs recognize and identify hazards; monitor, evaluate, and analyze these hazards by conducting research on the effects of workplace exposures; and gather and use health and hazard data to select and implement preventive and control measures as a continual process. Examples include an analysis of the effects of toxic chemical exposure, development of plans to prevent work-related accidents, and an analysis of groups, not just individuals, to detect patterns, trends, changes, and commonalities as in pandemic situations.

Work Environment and Benefits

  • OHNs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, academia, government, military and factories.
  • Many OHNs note that one of the benefits of the profession is the flexibility and work-life balance.
  • According to the 2018 AAOHN Salary Survey, more than three in four receive dental insurance, life insurance, vision insurance, medical insurance and prescription drug coverage.

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Education Requirements

OHNs are nurses 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 OHNs have obtained Masters Degrees (e.g., in public health, advanced practice, business) to continue to build their professional competencies. Certification in occupational and environmental health nursing is highly recommended.

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Additional Resources

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You’re not alone. If you’re new to the OHN field or want to learn more,
join AAOHN to leverage a community of thousands of occupational health and safety professionals who have been where you are today. Swap stories, exchange best practices, and share resources.