Professional Development

Becoming Certified

Board certification in occupational and environmental health nursing is a credential that represents a mark of prestige and a higher level of competence sought by employers. A certified OHN brings value to an organization by providing expertise in occupational injuries and illness, disease management, risk management and can make a positive impact on an organization’s financial bottom line. Besides being a significant personal and professional accomplishment, certification advances your career and attracts higher salaries. The American Board of Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN) is an independent nursing specialty certifying board and the sole provider of certification in the specialty of occupational and environmental health nursing in the US. More information about their certifications can be found below.

American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. (ABOHN) 201 East Ogden Avenue, Suite 114 Hinsdale, IL 60521-3652 Phone: (630) 789-5799

Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) available for the RN who practices occupational and environmental health nursing such as delivering direct clinical care, serving as advisor, coordinator, or case manager. Eligibility includes RN licensure and 3,000 hours of occupational health nursing experience over five years. Recertification is required every five years with requirements for continuing education.  

Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist (COHN-S) is offered to RNs with a bachelor's degree or higher. The focus of the COHN-S certification examination is on the roles of management, education, consultation, and case management, in addition to direct care. Eligibility includes RN licensure, Bachelor's Degree or higher and 3,000 hours of occupational health nursing experience over five years. Recertification is required every five years with requirements for continuing education.

Certified Occupational Health Nurse Case Manager (COHN/CM or COHN-S/CM) is offered to COHNs who practice case management and meet the criteria for case manager certification. Eligibility includes RN licensure, COHN or COHN-S, and continuing education in case management within the past five years. Recertification is required every five years with requirements for continuing education.

Because of the range of occupational health nursing careers, other certifications may be beneficial to an occupational health nurse’s career, e.g., case management, safety and health promotion. Certificate verification of accomplished training and experience may be needed in order to perform certain technical functions, such as audiometry, spirometry, drug testing or DOT medical examinations. A list of some of the most relevant certifying bodies and the types of certifications awarded can be found here.

Business and Management Resources

Many occupational and environmental health nurses work in business settings, even when the setting is healthcare, and need a significant level of business acumen. From an in-depth understanding of benefits planning, to project management, writing business plans, and documenting return on investment, nurses who deliver care to workers need strategic and creative thinking skills. The organizations listed below contain additional management information and resources beyond what is offered on AAOHN.org.

American Management Association
HERO
National Business Group on Health
Society for Human Resources Managers (SHRM)
WorldatWork

Regulations and Legislation for the OHN

As in any setting, the occupational and environmental health nurse relies on the Nurse Practice Act, the law in each state that defines the responsibilities of the nurse and the “scope of practice” – the range of activities and services as well as the qualifications for practice. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing brings together all state boards of nursing. Some other pertinent laws with a brief explanation are listed below.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment.

Department of Labor includes Offices of Labor & Management, Disability Employment, Mine Safety, the Women’s Bureau, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration and much more.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the agency that enforces laws and regulations concerning clean air and water, climate change, toxic substances, waste, land cleanup and emergencies.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) protects the interests of employee benefits plan participants.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual preference, national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

Family and Medical Leave Act entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits the use of genetic information in health insurance or employment.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) ensures the security and privacy of health data.

Department of Labor, Occupational Health & Safety Administration, Standards, includes general industry, construction, maritime, record keeping, agriculture, state plans, training and more.

U.S. Congress. (2010). The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Washington D.C.: U.S.
Government Printing Office guides employer-provided medical insurance plans and insurance coverage for and subsidies for lower wage workers.

Workers’ Compensation Laws

Individuals employed by private companies or state and local government agencies and injured on the job are covered by their State Workers' Compensation Board.

The Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) administers four major disability compensation programs for federal workers. Other specific groups are covered by

Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program
Federal Employees' Compensation Program
Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Program
Black Lung Benefits Program

Additional Professional Development Resources

The OSHAcademy offers free online safety training courses and resources that can help any company or individual comply with OSHA training guidelines and conform to ANSI/ASSE Z490.1-2009, ANSI/AIHA Z10-2005, and CSA Z1000-06 standards. 

From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Value of Nursing in Building a Culture of Health (Part 2): Helping Employers Create Safe and Productive Workplaces showcases nursing’s contributions to building a Culture of Health in other settings. More information can be found here.

Occupational health nursing is a professional track that allows for fascinating careers filled with unique experiences. Click here to view a number of OHN Career Profiles.