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Career Advice for a New Nurse wanting to go into Occupational Health

Occupational   (303 Views | 2 Replies)
by RN61 RN61 (New) New Nurse

RN61 has 1 years experience .

75 Profile Views; 2 Posts

Hello All,

I apologize for the long post…

I am a new registered nurse (BSN-graduated in May 2019) and I currently work in an emergency department (I have been working there since late July and on my own since November).  During nursing school, an occupational health nurse did a presentation in front of my class describing what she does as an occupational health nurse and what her day to day routine could be like.  After the presentation I emailed her, and I described what I did at a cub scout camp that I worked at as a nursing student over the past few summers and now I volunteer there as a nurse.  This is what I sent to her:


What we do there is:

·      I work from 0700-2230 and I am on call 24/7 (since I slept there)

·      Assist in training the staff on doing CPR, using an AED, and first aid (we have a certified trainer come to teach them)

·      Teach the first responder Webelos Adventure (which is basically a first aid class-but it does not certify them for anything)

·      Treat injured campers and staff and administer medications available through standing orders (Tylenol, Benadryl, Polysporin, and if needed we use epinephrine, glucose gel, etc.)

o   Manage care of multiple people at one time if necessary (with their consent first of course)

o   Triage injured staff and campers to determine who to treat first

§  Some conditions include: Bruises, sprains, strains, minor wound care, respiratory issues (such as asthma), fevers, headaches, rashes (from plants or sweat), burns, insect and other animal bites, GI issues, dehydration, heat-related injuries (such as heat exhaustion) menstrual periods, mental health conditions, other physical traumas

o   Determine if certain injured campers cannot participate in certain activities (for example, vomit or diarrhea = no pool time)

o   Make the decision to tell the camp director or ranger to call 911

o   Call the camp doctor for non-urgent medical questions/extra orders

o   Go out to areas to perform first aid and determine if the person needs emergency services, need to go to an Urgent Care, or if they just need first aid

·      Document (electronic and paper documentation) their injuries and write incident reports and worker’s compensation forms

·      Perform activity safety assessments- visit each program area and evaluate its safety considerations

·      Make announcements to program directors when it is very hot to remind them to remind their staff and the campers to stay hydrated

·      Keep track of the inventory

·      Notify camp director when certain injuries happen often (when trends occur) such as abdominal trauma at BMX from handlebars

o   Potentially make the decision to close down area or perform maintenance on it when necessary for safety reasons


She responded saying that what I do at the cub scout camp is very similar to what she does as well (except that she has a different patient population and potentially different injuries since she works in a different environment) which I was very happy to hear. 

My questions to the people of this forum are:

-How much experience should I have before I switch to occupational health?  Should it be 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years? 

-What certifications do I need to work as an occupational health nurse other than BLS?  Will companies pay for my training (such as urine screenings, blood alcohol screenings, etc.)?  I understand how to do that stuff, but I don’t know if I need to be formally trained and certified first?

-What advancement opportunities are there for occupational health nurses other than the COHN certification?  If I want to go to grad school, what would be a good program of study related to occupational health nursing?

-Lastly, I did NOT get into nursing for the money, but it would be foolish to not ask this question.  I live in eastern PA, what would the salary range be like for an occupational health nurse here.  I want to start a family one day, and I would like to provide for them.

Thank you so much for reading this and thank you for all of your responses  🙂

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MikeCOHN has 20 years experience and specializes in Occupational Health.

1 Post; 23 Profile Views

Occupational Health Nursing is a great specialty and can pay 20-25% above traditional bedside nursing.  I have been a nurse for 20 years and have worked in Occupational Health for 15.  I manage programs in the manufacturing industry and have oversight of 11 facilities and about 25 nurses.  The typical day of an OHN is never predictable. and challenging and you do a lot of different things.  The job is very interesting.  I will tell you what I look for in an occupational health nurse that I hire.

- I don't require OHN experience,  2-3 years experience as a nurse is good.  I like to recruit ED nurses looking for a change.  The skill set is a good match.  Fast paced, multi-tasking, handle stressful situations,  deal with difficult people, can work independently and most important be able to critically think. 

- The learning curve is large and can take a year or more to get to the point where you think you have it under control, a lot of what you do will be on the job training.  Depending on your work site you will be doing things like drug testing, post offer medical assessments, treating minor injuries or illnesses, breath alcohol testing, hearing conservation, ergonomics, STD/LTD/FMLA, workers comp case management, DOT drug/alcohol testing, wellness programs, teaching CPR/AED/BBP classes, respiratory protection and fit testing, etc.  

- Depending on your site once hired you will be sent for training to be certified in NIOSH Pulmonary Function Testing, CAOHC Hearing Conservation, CPR Instructor, DOT Specimen Collector and Breath Alcohol Tech.  

- Advancement - An OHN can advance into management positions, multi-site management, regional roles and corporate leadership.  Many OHN's move into case management roles.  You can get your MSN as an occupational health NP.  Certifications including COHN, COHN-S, COHN/CM, CCM are all possible after a couple of years of experience.  Certification is marketable and will increase your salary as an OHN.

- Pay for OHN's can vary widely based on your industry.  In general an experienced OHN with a certification can make 20% + more than a traditional bedside nurse.  In my area (Southeast) we pay OHN's between $68-86k depending on experience. 

OH is a challenging and rewarding specialty, can be very demanding at times but I enjoy getting to know the employees and working with them and helping them work through whatever might be going on.

I hope this helps.  Good luck!


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by RN61 New Nurse

RN61 has 1 years experience.

2 Posts; 75 Profile Views


Thank you so much! That answers my questions.  I did not know that nurse practitioners can be specialized in the occupational health field; that's really interesting.  I will continue to do my research in this field of nursing but I am very interested in it and hope that I can join it one day.  

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