Certification neccessary for OHN jobs?? Help needed

  1. Hello All,

    I am currently a Med/Surg floor nurse (2.5 years experience), and I need a change of environment because I'm starting to get burned out, lol. I have been researching occupational health nursing for a while now, and I am very interested in the field. When browsing OHN job oportunities, employers usually require previous occupational health experience, so I'm a little lost on how to get my foot in the door. Do I absolutely need to have OHN certification before pursing this field, or would I be able to get a job with just floor nurse experience??

    I also noticed that OHN certification programs are scarce, I know of one at UNC, but I have not seen many others...

    Any feedback would be GREATLY appreciated!
  2. Visit atiya912 profile page

    About atiya912

    Joined: Dec '09; Posts: 1
    from US
    Specialty: Med/Surg


  3. by   3rdcareerRN
    ABOHN certification requirements: "3,000 hours in occupational health in the past five years; or a completion of a certificate program in occupational health nursing for academic credit." So clearly you MUST work as an OHN before becoming board certified, or get some academic credential.

    My own experience is that I was hired as an OHN by having ER and med/surg experience, and then later achieved board certification.

    As with any job, you can eventually find an OHN position with whatever skills and credentials you bring, if the employer has sufficient need and insufficient alternatives. By getting ER experience and/or some type of academic certificate, you convert "eventually" into "soon".

    OHN jobs are scarce, even with credentials and experience. Start by talking to your facility's OHN, who may have contacts. Good luck.
  4. by   katkonk
    I agree with the previous response. First, OHN positions are very, very rare. When I was trying to get my foot in the door in Occ Health in the 90's, I faced the same problem. Everyone wanted experience, and you had to work so many thousands of hours to get certified, etc. etc. (When I got certified as a COHN-S, you had to have 4000 hours of time in.) You must really plot out your course, and build a resume and experience that will look enticing to an occupational health potential employer eventually. It takes commitment and dedication in order to get all the credentials you need. It is definitely not one of those things where you are able to just start working in occ. health. So, first get some ER or urgent care experience, as the previous nurse that replied said, and try to focus mainly on adult care. If you don't have 12 hour shifts in the ER, I would recommend becoming a per diem nurse and/or working through an agency. That is what I did in order to be available to work contract vacation relief shifts in Occ Health. Apply to any agency that ever gets any occupational health contracts in your area. Work contract shifts in as many places as possible. Then, pay for at least one certification course yourself, or have your hospital (if you continue to work for a hospital) pay for it as continuing education. Get certified in audiometry with a CAOHC certification. And/or get certified to give PFT's and do respirator fit testing. You might check out your employee health department in your hospital, that would be an excellent place to start picking up extra shifts. They would train you a bit, hopefully-especially as far as respirator fit testing-although only the hospital type. The real respirators used in industry are a different story. Or, if you don't mind taking a pay cut, check out any Concentra office for openings. Their pay is low, but they would likely train you free of charge. Also, any certification that you can get in urine drug testing and BAT testing would be great. All in all, in order to be a real "catch" for an employer you need all of those - BAT, DOT urine drug screen, CAOHC cert. and PFT/respirator cert. It is a long road, and the courses all cost about $ 500.00 each (approximately), but if Occ Health is really really what you want to do, then it is worth it down the road. Also, any studies you do re: ergonomics and anything you learn about your state's workers compensation laws, and CERTAINLY the basics of OSHA recordability re: on the job injuries will help, and will be eventually items you will need to know if you pursue this path. Good luck and keep building that resume a little at a time until you get there.
  5. by   Goodrich
    It hasn't been for my job. It totally depends on what the employer is looking for and that has changed several times since I joined this team. We might be the first position to be cut. However, in the current work and economic climate, injuries may be on the rise which will help justify our positions
  6. by   smk4450
    OHN certification is not necessary to gain a job. I have found many many jobs available, without cert. Concentra , YOH Health Staffing, ALL Med Health Staffing are just 3 agencies staffing. Check your local staffing agency, theymay have jobs and/or may market you to clients.

    Take Care Health, a subsidiary of Walgreens has 370 plants with many Nurse jobs open. One needs a good nursing background, ER/ICU are the best. If, you have MS only that does not stop you from applying. There many openings now, Takecarehealth.com have tons.

    They want a Nurse to be open to gaining more certs, on the job learning, taking really good care of the employees. Being the Case Mgr etc comes with more exp.
    I recently took an assignment for13 weeks with my 36 yrs of exp with some in OCC Health and many more in ER and ICU.Currently I am working alone. You would take a job working with more exp staff. It can work well.
    Good luck!
    Last edit by smk4450 on Dec 24, '09 : Reason: spelling
  7. by   JerseyLilly
    I agree with the post above. that OHN certification is not necessary to gain a job, however, having a certification will often open better opportunities that lead to permanent temp to hire positions. Employers are looking for people to bring expertise to the table. Many of these agencies, noted above (most of them I have worked for!) only offer episodic work, no benefits, holidays or sick time off. Sometime, the hourly wage is competitive, sometimes not. Episodic work is good if you need supplemental income to augment a main salary, but, I can honestly say, it is not good if you need job security! Perhaps, availability of agency OHN positions vary from state to state, there are very few open positions open here in NewYork/New Jersey, tri-state area. Competition is high and opportunities are scarce......just my .02 cents!!!!
  8. by   EwwThat'sNasty
    I agree with both of the recent posts. To become certified (COHN) I believe that the number of hours doing Occ-Med work has dropped to 2000 hours.

    I think it is best to look for one of the many small regional firms that do Occ-Med work. Some jobs are very elemental and really require little prior skill. Basic physical assessment is quite easy. Drug testing is easy to learn.

    Perhaps later you can find a job that is more challenging where there is Workers' Compensation case management, and perhaps a higher load and more potential acuity.

    The needs of an Occ-Med nurse are as varied as there are industries to work for. I've worked in a Paper Mill, a rough and ready, crushed arms, workes overcome by poison gas, or exposed to PCB's that included lot's of training.

    Another job was "light manufacturing," with a lot of sales staff. There was little possibility of a major injury to attend to short of a stroke or heart attack, or bee sting reaction.

    Some industries require you to be trained to do respirator fit testing; sound management and becoming COHC to do hearing tests, some do not.

    Start light, and move around. Many people poo pooh the COHN cert, but I don't. It is a broad body of knowledge, and if there are ten people applying to a job and you are COHN and the other nine are not, you probably will get it, not so much because of the cert, but because you know what needs to be known.