Occupational Health Nurse: Job Description and Information
Learn how to become a occupational health nurse. Research the job duties and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career in occupational health nursing.
How to Become an Occupational Health Nurse
Occupational health nurses are health care professionals who specialize in job-related wellness issues. The profession requires completing a formal nursing program and obtaining licensure as a registered nurse. To become a certified occupational health nurse, the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc., offers two credentials for experienced and specialized individuals. The following table shows the requirements typical for becoming an occupational health nurse:
|Degree Level||Associate's or bachelor's*|
|Licensure and/or Certification||Must pass the NCLEX-RN to become licensed*; Certified Occupational Health Nurse credential is voluntary**|
|Experience||None (entry level)*|
|Key Skills||Compassion*, speaking, critical thinking, listening***|
|Computer Skills||Database software, office software such as spreadsheet and word processing, medical records software***|
|Technical Skills||Medical monitoring equipment***|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, ***O Net OnLine.
Step One: Get a Nursing Degree
Becoming a registered nurse (RN) is the first step to a career as an occupational health nurse. Candidates need to complete an associate or bachelor's degree program in nursing. Both options combine classroom and hands-on clinical studies and take either two or four years to complete, respectively. Common courses of study include anatomy, psychology, physiology, nutrition and basic medical procedures.
- Consider an advanced degree. Responsibilities for occupational health nurses are generally equated with their level of education and experience. Those who wish to provide advanced nursing may complete a master's degree program to specialize in this field. A 2-year Master of Science in Occupational Health Nursing program emphasizes job-related studies.
Step Two: Acquire Licensure
All U.S. nurses are required to be licensed. Passing the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) proves individuals have the knowledge and skills necessary to work in the field as a registered nurse. Additional state requirements may be necessary in order to earn licensure, such as submitting to a background check or fingerprinting. Continuing education or documented experience in nursing generally qualifies RNs for license renewal.
Step Three: Become Certified in Occupational Health Nursing
Becoming a Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) requires passing a certification examination administered through the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. Registered nurses can earn the COHN credential with experience or education in the field. A Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist option requires licensure as a registered nurse as well as a bachelor's degree and sufficient experience or education in occupational health. Each exam includes 150 multiple-choice questions encompassing knowledge of occupational and nursing safety and standards.
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