Occupational Health Nurse

Occupational Health Nurse Role

An occupational health nurse provides health care and safety services for worker populations across a variety of settings. Duties include diagnosing and treating job-related injuries and conditions, assessing working environments to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses, and training workers on proper safety procedures to prevent or respond to workplace-related health issues. An occupational health nurse also must understand an organization’s workers’ compensation program as well as family and medical leave cases. Some knowledge of government and state standards regarding these statutes is necessary, and responsibilities can include case management, counseling and crisis intervention, health promotion, risk reduction, legal and regulatory compliance, and worker and workplace hazard detection.

Occupational Health Nurse Scope of Practice

As health care costs continue to rise, businesses are looking for ways to keep their employees healthy, and occupational health nurses can play a critical role in this regard.

Occupational Health Nurse Salary

Depending upon location and experience, occupational health nurses can expect to earn an average salary of $73,000 per year. Education and training, areas of specialization and employment setting can also affect salary.

How to Become a Certified Occupational Health Nurse

Certified Occupational Health Nurse Eligibility Requirements

Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) or Certified Occupational Health Nurse Specialist (COHN-S).

  1. Pass the NCLEX-RN examination to become certified as a registered nurse (RN). This is required prior to becoming a COHN. In order to become a COHN-S, one must be a registered nurse and also have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  2. Complete the required work experience. One way to do this is to have worked 3,000 hours in occupational health in the past five years. Another way is to complete a certificate in occupational health nursing for academic credit. For those interested in becoming a COHN-S, there is also the option of completing a graduate-level degree with a specialization in occupational health.
  3. Apply to take the COHN or COHN-S certification exam from the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN). The exams test knowledge needed to practice as an occupational health nurse or specialist. More information about certification can be found at the bottom of this page.
  4. Apply for state certification as a COHN or COHN-S in the state in which you wish to practice. Go to our state certification pages to find out the requirements and how to apply. Many applications can be submitted online.
  5. Certification must be renewed every five years. In addition to renewing certification through the board, renewal through the state is also required and additional fulfillment of continuing education contact hours may be necessary.

Certified Occupational Health Nurse Specialist Programs

Completion of a nurse practitioner program with a concentration in occupational health is another path to becoming an occupational health nurse. A variety of programs are available to complete the specialized training that prepares COHN-S students to become nurse practitioners as well. Depending upon the program chosen, the certification exam may be in the area of adult nurse practitioner (ANP) or family nurse practitioner (FNP). To be eligible to take the exam administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), candidates must have a current RN license, a postgraduate degree from an accredited ANP or FNP program and at least 500 supervised clinical hours. The certification examination will evaluate advanced physiology, health assessment and pharmacology knowledge.

In addition to the required certification exam for nurse practitioners is the national certification through ABOHN. ABOHN offers two certification designations: Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) and Certified Occupational Health Nurse Specialist (COHN-S). The COHN certification requires at least an associate degree and an active RN license. The COHN-S certification requires at least a bachelor’s degree and an active RN license. Both certifications require either 3,000 hours of occupational health nurse work experience in the five years prior to applying or completion of a certificate program in occupational health nursing for academic credit, or for COHN-S only, completion of a graduate-level education with a concentration in occupational health. These certifications are renewed every five years.

There are several options for nurse practitioner programs. The programs lead to degrees such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Ph.D. Programs of study offered include MSN in community health nursing, MSN in occupational health nursing–ANP, MSN in occupational health nursing–FNP, Master of Public Health (MPH)–OHN, MSN in primary health care–OHNP and MSN in environmental health—OHN. Some programs offer a dual-track program that confers both the MSN and MPH degrees upon successful completion.

Admission criteria can vary from university to university. In general, most nurse practitioner programs require students to have a current RN certification in the state they will be attending school (or at least be eligible for certification) and at least two years of relevant work experience in a clinical setting.

The occupational health nurse practitioner program is not always offered at universities and colleges nationwide, so research is needed to find the school that fits each individual student’s needs. Programs of study are generally completed in two years and class requirements are between 60 and 70 credit hours. Dual-degree programs require as many as 80 credit hours. Clinical work experience requirements usually range from 500 to 600 hours.

Online Occupational Health Nurse Programs

For working registered nurses who do not want to put their careers on pause or uproot their lives to attend an on-campus program far from where they live, online nurse practitioner programs with occupational health concentrations can be a flexible and high-quality option. When looking for an online program, make sure that it offers interactive features such as live classes, rigorous coursework and excellent placement services that will help you get the most out of your education. Some universities offer online programs that are identical to their on-campus programs, allowing students to earn a degree from a university they know and whose reputation they trust, without having to relocate. Online programs are growing in popularity and are a great way to become a nurse practitioner.

Occupational Health Nurse Certification

American Board for Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN)
Type of Certification:  Certified Occupational Health Nurse; Certified Occupational Health Nurse–Specialist
Eligibility Requirements: Aspiring occupational health nurse practitioners must be registered nurses in good standing, possess a bachelor’s degree or higher and have 3,000 hours work experience in occupational health during the past five years. They can also take a certification program in occupational health for academic credit or a graduate program with a focus in occupational health instead of meeting the hourly work experience requirement.
Certification Process: Download the handbook from the ABOHN website and mail in the application with all required paperwork and $150 application fee. Nurses must then sit for a 160-question, multiple-choice exam.
Fee: $400 for initial certification, charged after passing the exam.
Occupational health nurse practitioners must retain their nursing license, have 3,000 working hours in occupational health and complete 50 hours of continuing education in occupational health.

State Nursing Certification Information

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