An occupational health nurse is a registered medical professional who treats work-related injuries and health problems. He or she may provide health care services to workers in various occupations, including factory personnel, miners, construction workers and office staff. In addition, an occupational health nurse might attempt to prevent future injuries and illness by inspecting job sites, enforcing standards set Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and educating employees about risk management.
Occupational health nurses are specially trained to treat common work injuries such as strained backs, and design ongoing care plans. They may suggest that workers take time off to rest, utilize protective equipment, or seek further medical care. At job sites, nurses ensure that OSHA regulations are met at all times, and if they are not, suggest steps that companies may take to come into compliance. Further, occupational health nurses frequently provide counseling services and crisis intervention to individuals with excessive stress, mental problems, or substance abuse issues.
Most occupational health nurses are employed by hospitals, public health clinics, outpatient care centers, and private practices. Those employed in doctors' offices and outpatient centers typically work regular hours, though nurses in hospitals and other facilities which 24 hours a day may be required to work nights, weekends, holidays, and assume on-call status in the event of an emergency. Occasionally, a large corporation or factory will hire an occupational health nurse to work full- or part-time in their establishments, ensuring safe operations and providing immediate care when necessary.
A person must typically receive a bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited college or university to become an occupational health nurse, though many employers prefer to hire nurses with master's degrees. Before practicing in the United States, an occupational health nurse must become licensed in his or her state of residence by passing a licensing exam. Certification is not generally a requirement for occupational health nurses, though many choose to take a certificate program offered by the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses. Certified nurses are often rewarded with more job possibilities and opportunities for career advancement. Other countries typically have similar requirements for nurse licensing and certification.
Continuing education courses allow occupational health nurses to receive the latest information on policies, techniques, and equipment. Ongoing education, experience, and perseverance often allow nurses to advance to supervisory or administrative positions. Some nurses decide to pursue doctoral degrees in order to become occupational health physicians.