Occupational Health Nurses: 7 Things You Need to Know About Them

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They are what we call upgraded nurses. In a fast paced world, nursing as an innovative profession must also go with the change and improve the quality of service to fit the new trend. Traditionally, nurses can only be found in hospitals or clinics. But did you know that nurses can also work outside hospitals and still have the potential of great professional growth? We are talking about the need for nurses of companies and industrial sites.

Occupational Health Nurses. Company Nurses. Project Nurse. Industrial Nurse. OHNs. Various names to call registered nurses who independently observe and assess workers’ health status on job tasks and hazards. Using their specialized experience and education, they recognize and prevent health risks from hazardous exposures and treat workers’ injuries and illnesses.

This is a great option even for new nurses out there. So if you’re still telling students and new nurses that they must get hospital experience before moving on to something else, that my dear is an outdated advice. There are few hospital positions for new nurses across the country today. New nurses should be directed to areas with the largest growth potential for current and future employment. According to the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), the average salary is $63,472.

Whether you have decided, or you just have no choice since hospitals are requiring for experience, nurses can consider this new ‘version’ of the profession. For those interested, what do we need to know about Occupational Health nurses? Here are a few interesting facts:

1. They’re a different breed of nurses.

If you think being an Occupational Health Nurse is easy, then think again. OHNs are modernized and expanded health care providers working independently or on a team approach. It requires a unique professional training since this is quite different from the tasks you do as a hospital nurse. As a prerequisite, some companies require nurses to undergo and be certified under the Occupational Health and Safety Training for Nurses wherein the necessary knowledge, skills and attitude are being taught.

In every country, there is an Association of Occupational Health Nurses. If you intend to be an OHN, you should be a member of this organization to be protected and informed of current trends and updates.Furthermore, OHNs work close in hand with the management to ensure health and safety are observed within the organization.

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Furthermore, OHNs work close in hand with the management to ensure health and safety are observed within the organization. Upgrading and raising their standards of professional training is in response to the on-growing demands in the global competition. You don’t want to be left behind in this world of continual improvement, right?

2. They prevent rather than cure.

The goal of an OHN is to lessen sick or injured patients in the workplace. OHN are employed to promote health, prevent diseases and ensure safety and health of employees. As mentioned, OHNs are mostly found in industrial settings, like private clinics, manufacturing companies, BPO industry, and other organizations alike. Since the modern day era required more of the preventive rather than the curative, it resulted in the up rise demand of occupational nurses to assess risk and identify hazards that may pose a threat to its workplace.

3. They are safety advocates

Nurses prioritize safety for their patients. In an industrial setting, OHNs work as partners with the company’s department tasked to ensure the safety and welfare of its workers. Every company has a Health and Safety Department or the like since these two areas are interdependent with each other. Safety is also a priority for OHNs since they also take care of preventing injuries in the workplace.

4. They are masters of creating health programs.

Formulating a sound and well-organized health program is one primary task of an OHN.

A piece of advice for aspiring OHNs: an effective program must focus towards business compatible and cost-effective approach. It must concentrate on specific needs of the employees based on the type of workplace you have, and most importantly, it must aim to prevent debilitating conditions that may cause a loss for the company. With this regard, some of the programs that can be implemented are vaccinations (annual influenza vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccine, Tetanus vaccination), annual physical examination, random drug testing, Dengue Prevention campaign, weekly health lectures and other ways to ensure a healthy and productive workforce. These are usually based on legal requirements and procedures. Once these programs are established, the organization can manage its people smoothly. I think OHN nurses are kind of cool in this one.

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5. They’re experts of documentation.

And I don’t mean recording on patient’s charts or medication records per se. For OHNs, documentation of worker’s disease, injuries and lost days (sick leaves are lost days to the company) is also another essential responsibility. These data are to be reported monthly through health and safety meetings where employers should be informed of the possible risk hazards, accidents occurred, the people involved and the total lost days if any. By doing such, the management can assess the potential risks, dangers, and the ways to control them in such a way that repeat of the incident will not occur in the future. OHN plays a vital role in preventing debilitating diseases and injuries to protect manpower and company’s resources. Aside from that, writing work related reports, nurse’s notes, referrals, ambulance trip tickets are also part of their everyday tasks. I will not be surprised if they can sideline as a typist, or writers, or clerk. After all, they do a good job at that.

OHNs play a vital role in preventing debilitating diseases and injuries to protect manpower and company’s resources. Aside from that, writing work related reports, nurse’s notes, referrals, ambulance trip tickets are also part of their everyday tasks. I will not be surprised if they can sideline as a typist, or writers, or clerk. After all, they do a good job at that.

6. They Can Pass as Pharmacists

Who says nurses are poor at Math? Believe it or not, OHNs conduct an inventory of medicines and supplies in the workplace. Monitoring of expiration dates of perishable supplies and medicines is also their job. Since most companies have clinics where OHNs are working, they are responsible for maintaining company assets like medical equipment. Like charting, counting is another skill you can gain by being an OHN. Not bad isn’t?

7. They’re the “jack of all trades” in nursing

To be an OHN requires flexibility. The work environment for OHNs varied as their roles range from the classroom (educator) to boardroom (corporate director) to clinic (clinician, case manager, NP) to business setting (consultant).

Here are however some of the signs that OHN can perform more than what is written in their job descriptions:

  • They can perform some procedures even without a doctor. Often, occupational physicians work only in the morning shifts so night nurses can go on duty alone and should be very confident of it. First aid and giving OTC become their sole responsibilities.
  • Secretary. OHN are trained in writing letters and company related documents. They can be clerks by doing all the typing and editing jobs for others.
  • Stock manager. OHNs can sometimes spend their whole time filing and stocking old files.
  • Warehouseman. He can do inventories of medicines and supplies, from Paracetamol to cotton balls, name it, he can count it, on a shifting basis.
  • Shock absorbers. He takes stress not only from the doctors and patients, but from supervisors, managers, and co-workers.

What do they get in return?

A lot more than their salaries. There’s no greater reward for a good deed than smiles and appreciation. As an OHN, you are the boss in your own field. If the situation permits, you can put action for those who are non-compliant in company health programs. Often, you must. Why? Because it’s for their own sake.

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Outside the hospital, the whole organization is your area. Everyone is your patient. You know their health issues, and they will listen to you. And the good thing is, the management supports you. That’s what you call, ‘Nurse empowerment.’

Indeed, we can say that nursing is a wide-range profession. Nurses are needed not only for the sick but for the healthy as well. We can work anywhere as long as health and safety are at risk. Either in a hospital, private or industrial field, nursing is a malleable profession, always ready to go and make a change.

 

Monica Florita is a registered nurse in the Philippines. She worked in hospitals before deciding to be an Occupational Health nurse. She considered writing a hobby as useful in imparting knowledge and inspiration to members the nursing profession.

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