What is Occupational Health Nursing?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2019
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Occupational health nursing is a field within the nursing profession which is focused on the prevention and management of workplace injuries. Occupational health nurses can work for companies which want to provide nursing services to their employees, and for government agencies concerned with occupational and public health issues. Many are registered nurses, and some hold master's degrees in topics such as public health.

The practice of occupational health nursing is quite diverse, with nurses approaching occupational health from a number of perspectives. Many are concerned with identifying occupational hazards and confirming that companies are compliant with occupational health laws. They work with supervisors and employees to increase compliance rates, and to encourage reporting of unsafe or questionable working conditions. For this work, it is necessary to receive industry-specific training about potential hazards, government safety mandates, and topics which may be relevant to nursing practice.

Occupational health nursing is also concerned with prevention and education. A nurse may provide orientations to employees to teach them how to work safely and effectively, and they also offer regular education classes which promote employee health. These classes can include specific topics related to the workplace, along with more general health topics such as nutrition and exercise. Occupational health nurses also offer counseling to employees who need assistance with health issues which could influence their performance in the workplace, such as addiction or depression.


Members of the occupational health nursing profession also deal with workplace injuries when they occur. They manage individual patient cases from the time that an injury is reported through follow-up, and they use each injury as an opportunity to reevaluate the workplace and to determine if additional safety programs are needed. The ideal goal of occupational nursing is to avoid seeing workplace injuries by eliminating them, of course, but nurses still need to be prepared to deal with them.

Work-related injuries can cost employers a great deal of money. Hiring an occupational health specialist may require out of pocket expenditure, but it will generate savings in the long term by reducing such injuries and keeping the workplace as a whole much healthier. Occupational health nursing professionals can also work in environments like clinics which specialize in the treatment of such injuries, providing customized care to people who have been injured at work, and they can work for government agencies and insurance companies, researching workplace injuries, determining their cause, and deciding who or what is responsible.


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Discuss this Article

Post 8

@Crispety - I agree with you and I wanted to say that I think that it is a great idea for anyone interested in becoming an RN nurse to pursue occupational health nursing courses as well. The nice thing about this field is that you do get to travel and meet different people and are you are mainly involved with preventive measures.

You are not treating someone that is already sick. I think that it is admirable when people join the nursing profession, but it does take a toll on you emotionally because you are seeing sick people that sometimes die and it really can make you sad because you tend to bond with the patient.

The occupational health nurse job description does not lend itself to treating people that are this sick, so I am sure there is virtually no burnout in this field as opposed to regular nursing.

Post 7

@drtroubles - I do think that a company has the right to make their employees listen to an occupational health safety seminar. The employer is contributing a large portion of the employee’s health insurance benefits, and the healthier the employee is the more cost effective the insurance is for the employer.

If an employee develops healthier habits they will be less likely to miss work and lower the productivity standards for the company. So I do feel that the company has a lot vested in making sure that the employees are as healthly as possible. Some companies even have onsite gyms and even refuse to hire smokers which tend to have the highest health insurance costs.

Post 6

The company I work for went on a bit of a lifestyle improvement binge over the last year as one of our higher ups read that improved employee health and fitness can really help with employee productivity. The next thing we knew we had an occupational nurse in giving mandatory classes on exercises we could do around the office to prevent strain and diet improvements we could make to make us feel more alert and healthier overall.

While this information is great, I am not sure it should be mandatory for employees to attend, especially since the sessions weren't considered overtime. Do you think employers should be allowed to make employees attend sessions held by occupational nurses?

Post 5

One of my close friends works as an occupational nurse and it can be really rewarding, as well as less stressful than working in a traditional hospital environment. She is always telling me about the interesting people she gets to meet in the various work settings and how she has made a lot of great contacts through her time chatting with the people she has helped.

Besides just helping people out who are injured on the job, she has also told me that she occasionally gives talks about safety and how to care for an injured coworker. She volunteers to do this at work, so I am not sure if it actually part of the occupational health nurses job or not.

Post 4

There are many advantages of working in the health industry and an Occupational Health Nurse is just one of several careers that can be quite rewarding. My sister has worked in this field for several years, and I was a little surprised at how high an occupational health nurse salary can be.

She has many years of experience and has been a single mom raising her kids within the nursing profession. It is not uncommon for them to make around $70,000 a year and this is a good income to raise a family on.

This can all depend on the area of the country you live in and how much experience you have, but many times you can even make more than this.

Post 3

There are several positions within the nursing field in addition to working in the hospital. I have a friend who worked on the floor for many years, but once her kids were raised and she had some more freedom, she looked in to traveling nursing jobs.

She likes the variety of her work and being able to work in different places. She does not have to work as many long hours because the pay is higher than she was working as a nurse on the floor. It has been a nice change for her during this part of her life.

Post 2

@Acracadabra - Thanks for sharing your sister's story. I have been thinking about a career in nursing but the long hours, along with the possibility of night shifts, have made me avoid looking into it properly.

Somebody told me that there are other opportunities, such as community health nursing, but I knew little about the field of occupational health and safety until I read this article.

The one slight hiccup could be that it may take several years to get qualified, as I don't have a full college degree. Still, it's worth taking the time to get the certification, as I'd have a job I could enjoy for the rest of my working life.

Post 1

When my sister started a family she wanted a nursing job which didn't require working shifts.

She decided to invest in some further training to widen her options, and after finishing her occupational health nurse certification found it quite easy to get a job to suit her schedule.

I think she misses the hustle and bustle of the hospital sometimes, but specialising in something definitely gives an RN nurse many advantages.

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