Advance Degree RNs Manage Workplace Safety and Health

Nurse Specialists in Environmental Health

Nurses that specialize in Environmental Health provide services within a workplace. During the 20 th century the issue of workplace safety and health drove the development of government regulations that protect workers on the job. Workplace nurses are specially trained to:

  • Provide intervention techniques as regards safety, ergonomics, environmental health risks, and employee injuries.
  • Act as first responders in emergency situations and possibly train others within an organization to provide emergency care.
  • Develop proactive employee health programs, such as fitness education and smoking cessation programs.

These are the basics of Environmental Health (OEH) Nursing. Nurses trained in this discipline may be employed as Employee Health/Safety Coordinators and Managers, Occupational and/or Environmental Health Managers, and workplace Medical Officers. More detailed job requirements may include statistical record keeping of employee injuries, management of employee health insurance plans, workplace immunizations, and an almost limitless assortment of other responsibilities that may be very workplace specific. Some workplaces pose risks due to hazardous materials while others, like agricultural businesses, pose a completely different assortment of risks.

Health and Safety Officer.

Degree & Certificate Programs

OEH Nurses may gain entry to the field via a number of different educational and degree avenues:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) degree programs offer students the option to specialize in Occupational and Environmental Health. CNSs earn a Master’s degree in an Advanced Practice Nursing program. The curriculum targets a three-tiered nursing pedagogy: how to work closely with workers, how to provide workplace education, and methods useful when working with employers and workplace administrators to develop cost-effective workplace safety plans.
  • Occupational and Environmental Nurse Practitioner programs, also an Advanced Practice Specialty degree, provide training toward a Master’s degree. Nurse Practitioners learn to work very closely with patients to assess, treat, and offer education for all kinds of health and medical problems.
  • Masters degree in Occupational Health programs are generally two years in length and provide a generic graduate program. The degree is designed for nursing professionals that are motivated to work in research.
  • Masters degrees in Public Health are designed to prepare the aspiring professional to work at a management level. MPHs provide pertinent services and interventions for a wide range of workplaces.
  • Nurses with a BSN degree may find entry-level jobs in OEH and use on the job training to gain the bulk of the job experience they need. However, few make it to management positions without a Masters degree.

Occupational and Environmental Health Nurses are almost always required to be Certified Occupational Health Nurses (COHN) or COHN-Specialists. Candidates must be RNs, have logged at least 4000 hours in occupational health jobs, and be willing to meet continuing education requirements. The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. designs and administers the nationally recognized exams.

Career Outlook

Use of professional nurses in business and industry usually bears out in terms of cost. This alone is a positive factor driving the demand for trained OEH nurses. According to most sources the number of occupational nursing jobs will increase, making this a very lucrative field for nurses to pursue.


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