I'm thinking about my future as an OHN - I like what I do but it's groundhog day...
10 years (onshore / offshore heavy industry, remote are support) and wondering what's next. I live / work in jurisdictions (Middle East / Australia) that don't and probably wont recognize OH NPs, so why bother fighting it. I watch my profession being dumbed down and the wages with them - 2 years ER will get you a job with OHN title in most countries, in some you can call yourself a OHNP with no OH background at all. Guess I took the long / wrong route: BNursing, hyperbaric and ICU certification, Post Grad Dip Safety Science, Master Occ Med, chartered professional membership of safety institutes, certified auditor etc etc...
Looking at opportunities for senior corporate level positions, it appears the preference (outside the US - dunno about that market, not eligible to work there) is for Occ Therapists or Occ Hygienists (IHs) and rarely Occ Physicians - most Health, Safety and Environment Managers generally only have either an engineering degree or a trade certificate / NEBOSH dip etc without any specific specialty in any of the disciples (H,S or E)... I'm yet to see a high level position that invites OHN's. Typically the interview goes something like, "...oh I see you are a nurse. That's nice but we're looking for someone with more experience in engineering / process control / construction / safety. Thanks for coming..".
I pride myself on being a good ambassador of OHNs, I strive to educate junior nurses entering the profession, but I find it harder every day. What do I tell a bright young thing - that you will rapidly hit a ceiling and to chose another specialty.
Reading the boards it seems that RNs want to transition to OHN because they don't like hospitals - that's fine, but OH nursing is somewhat more complex than just nursing outside a hospital. Throw in case management, business management, administrative law and compliance, health promotion, emergency medicine, pre-hospital care, travel medicine, public health, cross overs in safety / occ hygiene / IH and you have a much better description of our role. Or perhaps I'm the one looking at this all-wrong...
So, I'm looking for global thoughts. To all the experienced / certified / qualified OHNs out there - how do you see the future of the specialization going? What would you recommend to a new grad planning an OH career? How do we claw back our professional credibility? Or do we bother?
Jul 26, '09
Good post! I am a COHN-S and what I am seeing especially in the northeast market is that there are not too many job opportunities at the moment, due to downsizing and budgetary constraints. I am seeing alot of multi-tasking at jobs, where there is an overlapping of OHN tasks, safety, and other disciplines, often to the point of not being sound practice, because the work force is being cut and those who remain must take up the responsibility. I believe the specialty of OHN is evolving due to research PLUS the ever-changing face of businesses and their economic health. I see more and more nurses doing the safety and environmental piece, especially in a manufacturing setting, and am wondering if more and more OHN's will be "favored" if they become certified as a COHN-S's safety manager? Perhaps, a COHN certification is no longer enough these days???
Last edit by JerseyLilly on Jul 26, '09
: Reason: mispelled words
May 6, '10
Quote from ownadobe
My job must be feast. I have been in a stable position for 10 years now, gaining more skills but along with that is more responsibility. I have now started doing CM for those on disability/WC trying to get them back to work sooner. I am employed by the company and not contract so I guess I should consider myself lucky.
Yes, this is key!!--You are employed by the company so you are part of their staff. There is a committment to you along with other perks, like benefits and a pension! Yes, you are lucky!
Here is a great article about contractor workers vs permanent workers:
Last edit by JerseyLilly on May 6, '10
Great responses by all, thank you. I've been full-time Occ-Med for about 5 years, coming from Med-Surg and ICU. I'm contracted to a major corporation and love the job, the management and the Union (UAW) which seems to be contrary to what everyone else feels. Sadly, our plant closes in a few months and it's decision time. A local headhunter sends out a list of jobs periodically. Three years ago the average list was about ten Occ-Med RN's and maybe a part time LPN. These days, the list is usually 8 NP's, and one part-time LPN. Clearly becoming a NP is becoming more essential. Combo setups like COHN-S/SP or CMM helps. It's sad to hear the situation in foreign countries, for I had thought about that. As a lot we are becoming more and more pushed to extinction.
Contract job seem the norm, and my contract company has reduced (through cuts in pay/insurance, etc.) my real income by about 8% each of the past three years. I no longer recommend OHN to students; sadly I actually no longer recommend nursing of any sort, even though a few years back I was a proselytizer. I'm trying to find a NP program, but being older, taking a loan is either very wise or very stupid (it's hard to collect from the aged infirm, or dead, but I online tests say I will live to be 90+, and there it is hard to consider paying $600/month for student loans. Still there will always be a need for those who hold experience and skills. COHC, being able to do fit-checking, spirometry, being an instructor (BBP; First Aid, CPR) helps. Even becoming a certified fitness instructor can help land a nice job if the corporation has a fitness center. I read that 20 years ago that the norm was one OHN for every ~150 employees, then it changed to every ~400, and in some places is as high as one per 700 ee's, due to reduction in manufacturing, and thus reduction in injuries in many areas. Lacerations, crushing injuries, strains have moved aside for office ergo issues and slips and falls on the way to the entrance.
America's economic situation has brought hard times for all, exemplified by my being so happy about being terminated in a few months from the best job I have ever had (due to reductions making it no longer to live/work in MA). *pfft* I'm delaying paying my fee to AAOHN till August, and then will delay taking the COHN-S test till next year because I doubt I'll need it this fall/winter due to a paucity of jobs.
Last edit by 42pines on Jun 19, '10
: Reason: to add paragraphs since line breaks don't work