There are hazards in all types of workplaces, from retail stores to offices to construction sites. Workplace hazards can include chemicals, obstructions, machinery, or even employee carelessness and computer screens.

Occupational health is a field that involves identifying and controlling workplace hazards. Professionals in this field work to make sure that workplaces stay safe and employees stay healthy. Occupational health nurses attempt to prevent injuries and illnesses related to workplaces and care for employees that have gotten hurt or ill.

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Understanding the Role of an Occupational Health Nurse

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What is an Occupational Health Nurse?
What do Occupational Health Nurses Do?
Where do Occupational Health Nurses Work?
How do I Become an Occupational Health Nurse?

What is an Occupational Health Nurse?


An occupational health nurse is a nursing professional that focuses on workplace safety. While many would like to think that only certain workplaces are hazardous, this simply isn’t true. Every workplace has its own hazards, regardless of the occupations associated with them. For instance, factory workers are at risk of being injured by machinery and chemicals. Although you may not think it, even office workers are at risk of developing health problems, which can include carpel tunnel, eye strain, and problems with their backs.

Occupational health nurses work closely with both employers and employees to ensure that workers stay safe in their working environments. They also work to make sure that workers suffering from workplace related injuries and illnesses get the care that they need.

Communication skills are an absolute must if you’re looking to become an occupational health nurse. You must be able to effectively communicate with employers, employees, medical professionals, and insurance companies. Teaching skills are also important, as you’ll often be educating individuals on workplace safety. Attention to detail and problem solving skills are equally important.

What do Occupational Health Nurses Do?


Occupational health nurses work to prevent, investigate, and treat workplace related illnesses and injuries.

In order to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses, occupational health nurses assess workplaces in an effort to identify possible hazards. These nurses also educate employers and employees on how to prevent accidents and injuries. They may suggest changes in procedures or develop other ways to make workplaces safer. Occupational health nurses also make sure that workplaces are up to standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or OSHA.

When an employee claims that an illness or injury is related to his work, an occupational health nurse will also investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident. For instance, they may look at an employee’s medical charts to determine whether or not the injury or illness could have been caused by a workplace hazard. These nurses may also perform drug and alcohol tests and investigate causes of workplace accidents. This is often necessary for workman’s compensation and medical insurance claims.

Treating employees that get hurt or ill due to workplace hazards is another important responsibility of occupational health nurses. This may include tending to injuries, administering medication, and performing rehabilitation therapy after certain injuries.

Occupational nurses will also screen new and prospective employees to ensure that they are capable of performing the duties required by their positions. This may include a physical examination, vision test, hearing test, and drug or alcohol screening.

Where do Occupational Health Nurses Work?

Occupational health nurses can often find employment in hospitals and clinics. However, many employers and companies will also hire these nursing professionals. They work in all industries and all different types of workplaces.

How do I Become an Occupational Health Nurse?

To become an occupational health nurse, you will first need to become a registered nurse. This involves earning your nursing degree or diploma from an accredited nursing school. You will also need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Below is the educational path for an Occupational Health Nurse (lowest to highest level of education)

Educational TrackSchool ProgramsAverage Education LengthChoosing Online or Campus
Earn a Bachelors DegreeView Programs4 Years Online or Campus
Earn a MSN DegreeView Programs2 Additional YearsOnline or Campus
Earn a PHD or DNPView Programs2-4 Additional YearsOnline or Campus

The American Board for Occupational Health Nurses also offers a voluntary certification for occupational nurses. To be eligible to sit for the certification examination, you must have had 3,000 hours of experience as an occupational health nurse within the prior five years, or you must have completed an occupational health nurse certificate program.