An Interview with Jean Randolph, MPA, RN, COHN-S, FAAOHN

Interview conducted by Florence Dyer, ANP-C, Chair of the AAOHN Careers Committee

I had the privilege of interviewing Jean Randolph, an occupational health nurse who has been wholeheartedly involved with AAOHN for the last decade, and is currently one of the members of the editorial review panel for Workplace Health and Safety.

Our informal telephone interview revealed that Ms. Randolph was introduced to occupational health early in her nursing career, when she accepted an industrial nurse position in a specialty chemical company in Rochester, New York. Working under the tutelage of an occupational health-savvy corporate director of nursing, she learned the essential elements of keeping personnel safe at work. It was a sharp learning curve for Ms. Randolph as she familiarized herself with the core principles of employee health and safety through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) laws and regulations. She was encouraged to pursue all available learning opportunities, including membership in the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), and later, her certification in occupational health from the American Board of Occupational Health Nursing (ABOHN).

One of the practical issues to address in the industry was the unavailability of medical personnel during the evening/night shifts, when the potential for injuries and accidents tends to be significantly higher than in day shifts. Ms. Randolph recognized the need for increased safety and health monitoring and guidance for extended-hours staff. She organized an employee-based system to reinforce established safety protocols and injury management processes.

Her next position was in the high-tech industry. Here, Ms. Randolph partnered with employees in establishing a “no food/drink/smoking in work area” policy to prevent accidental ingestion of lead. She would later introduce a smoking cessation program with the buy-in from staff.

During those core years of her career, Ms. Randolph realized the importance of continuing her education. While being a mother to three sons and working full-time, she earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s of public administration (MPA) degree.

Following this, Ms. Randolph took on the challenge of occupational health for healthcare workers in a children’s hospital in Georgia with about 260 beds and 3,000 employees. This environment presented issues unique to the healthcare industry, specifically infection control and the exposure of healthcare workers to bloodborne pathogens. Rapidly acquiring additional competencies through extensive reading, workshops, and teamwork, Ms. Randolph took it to heart to have all healthcare workers educated about and immunized against Hepatitis B. She put in place a system offering immediate HIV testing and counseling for those exposed to contaminated blood through needlestick injuries.

Her position in the hospital as occupational health and emergency management officer was an opportunity to develop skills in personal protective equipment (PPE), safety of electronic medical records, and planning/conducting safety drills.

Exploring ways to increase the services of the hospital to the community, Ms. Randolph became involved as a member in the state of Georgia’s Disaster Preparedness Team. This activity improved her skills in local and regional networking, team building, and effective communication. Those enhancements to her skill set became extremely useful when Hurricane Katrina hit. During that summer, Atlanta received the largest number of evacuees from hurricane-affected areas. The hospital where Ms. Randolph worked was able to coordinate with all other medical institutions in Georgia in order to rehabilitate patients efficiently. As a result, the hospital was awarded the title of Regional Pediatric Disaster Center.

Ms. Randolph shared her rich experiences with other occupational health professionals serving in different capacities within AAOHN, establishing worker safety policies. She has been active in local and state AAOHN organizations as a board member for 4 years and has networked with professionals from all specialties and areas of interest. Currently she is working as a nurse consultant for healthcare disaster preparedness at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where she strategizes to strengthen community teamwork when responding to health threats, such as the recent Ebola response.

Being successful in an occupational health nursing career requires a strategy to remain up to date and competent in a profession that is dynamic. Ms. Randolph states, “Earning the occupational health certification (COHN) is a very valuable objective for all OHNs. Continuous learning is the key. This is easily achievable by participating in the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses’ many conferences, workshops, and other events, which promote networking with other OHNs and safety and emergency management professionals.”