Formal education and training leading to an academic degree in occupational and environmental health is the norm. In addition to a foundation in scientific knowledge pertaining to the field, the masters/doctorate program in occupational and environmental health provides the nurse with a broad understanding of the many factors determining workers’ health, enabling them to be productive members in interdisciplinary teams. Continuing education is a must to remain competent, validate self-efficacy and offer the best care available to workers. On a practical scale, continuing education is mandatory to retain licensure and certification.
Academic/Advanced Degrees in OHN
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) supports 17 regional university-based Education and Research Centers (ERCs). Eleven of the ERCs offer masters and/or doctorate education in occupational health nursing. Doctorates of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a concentration in occupational and environmental health nursing are available from some of the ERCs. An academic Occupational Health Nursing Certificate is available from the North Carolina Occupational and Safety ERC.
Continuing education in occupational and environmental health nursing is available from several professional occupational health nursing organizations, including AAOHN and almost all of the NIOSH ERCs. Continuing education can be in the form of an onsite or virtual conferences, online self-paced learning, or live and recorded webcasts. It can be a short, one-hour sessions, a full conference, or certificate courses of varying length. Usually continuing nursing education (CNE) is awarded that can be applicable to licensure renewal or certification.
Continuing education in other occupational health disciplines is often advisable. Almost all of the ERCs offer continuing education in industrial hygiene, safety, environmental health, and ergonomics, both in person and online. Plus the professional associations for these specialties, and others, such as the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, offer conferences and specific continuing education courses. (see Organizations)
A Global Certificate Program in Occupational Health Practice is available from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.
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.
Experienced occupational and environmental health nurses may act as preceptors for student nurses in collaboration with schools of nursing or public health. They may extend the service to a fellow occupational health nurse from another organization who may be working alone and do not have access to preceptors in their own organization.
Seeking a mentor who has expertise and experience in a specific area of occupational and environmental health nursing practice can be another means of developing your skills and career.
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.
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 are included 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.
American Hospital Association, 155 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, Illinois 60606 Phone: (312) 422-3000. Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Professional requires a blend of education and healthcare-specific experience and passage of the exam. Renewal is required every three years.
Board of Certified Safety Professionals at 2301 W. Bradley Avenue, Champaign, Illinois USA 61821 Phone: (217) 359-9263. Certified Safety Professional (CSP) requires a minimum Bachelor's degree in any field or an associate's in safety, health or the environment or a closely related field.
Commission for Case Management Certification (CCMC) 1120 Route 73, Suite 200 Mount Laurel, NJ 08054 Phone: (856) 380-6836. Certified Case Manager (CCM) eligibility includes a four-year degree in health or human services and completion of supervised field experience in case management, health, or behavioral health within the past five years. Recertification is required every five years.
Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC): 555 E. Wells St. Suite 1100 Milwaukee, WI 53202-3823, Phone: (414) 276-5338. Occupational Hearing Conservationist completes a Council for Accreditation of Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC)-approved, 20-hour certification course and earns a passing score on the exam. Recertification is required every five years.
International Association for Worksite Health Promotion (IAWHP) 401 West Michigan Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202. The International Association for Worksite Health Promotion Online Certificate Course provides a road map for designing successful evidence-based health promotion programs in the workplace.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 395 E Street, SW Suite 9200 Patriots Plaza Building Washington, DC 20201, Phone: (202) 245-0625. NIOSH-approved Spirometry is 16 hours of instruction by a NIOSH approved instructor and a passing score on the exam. A refresher course is required every five year. Various ERCs offer courses and accreditations, such as: Accredited Office Ergonomics Evaluator (AOEE), a 16 hour course and exam or the Industrial Ergonomics Process Workshop that does not include certification, but is a four day workshop.
National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (National Registry), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrationn1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590 Phone: (800)832-5660. FMCSA DOT Medical Examiner Training is an approximate two day course, onsite or online, to teach, test and certify healthcare providers (NPs, PAs, MDs & OD’s) to perform medical examinations for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers in interstate commerce.
National Society of Health Coaches (NSHC) Winchester, TN Phone: (866) 916-NSHC (6742). Evidence-based Health Coaching (EBHC)® is a 28-hour online education and skills competency exam for health coaching.
National Wellness Institute (NWI) PO Box 827, 1300 College Court, Stevens Point, WI 54481 Phone: 715.342.2969. Certified Worksite Wellness Program Manager is a two-day onsite training followed by an online exam that qualifies participants to manage the planning, design, implementation, and measurement of a comprehensive worksite wellness program.