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How to Become an Occupational Health Nurse

If you are interested in nursing and support the idea of safe workplaces for everyone, then there is a good chance you would make a great occupational health nurse. Occupational health nurses are registered nurses who work with employers to ensure workplaces are reasonably safe and there are relevant emergency prevention and containment plans.

What do Occupational Health Nurses do?

As an occupational health nurse, your main task would be encouraging better health and well-being in workers. However, the job is quite varied and can include any and all of the following:

  • Carrying out pre-employment medicals
  • Assessing and treating employees who get injured at work
  • Advising on health and well-being
  • Developing safe working policies and procedures
  • Giving sickness absence advice

To become an occupational health nurse, you will have to possess, or be ready to acquire, the following skills: 

  • The ability to promote health and well-being
  • The ability to relate to people with various backgrounds and communicate effectively
  • Observational skills and the ability to think clearly in emergency situations

Depending on your employer, you can work alone or as part of an occupational health service team. You can also be attached to a personnel or HR department. 

Entry Requirements and Qualifications Needed

Occupational health nurses have to complete a three-year degree programme in nursing and have experience of working as a registered nurse. Usually, at least two years' of work experience is required before you can apply for work or training as an occupational health nurse. 

You can choose from a wide selection of nursing programmes and institutions at which these programmes are offered. However, it is important that your programme is accredited by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Here you can search for NMC-approved degrees by country, institution, and qualification.  

A further qualification in occupational health nursing is needed before you can enter the job market. You can take a degree or postgraduate occupational health nursing programme leading to registration as a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse

Courses can take from one to two years, depending on whether you study full-time or part-time. Your study may include work placements. The subjects you will study can include health and safety regulation, health promotion, occupational disease management, and health surveillance. 

Your employer may want you to have a recognised certificate in counselling or health safety, such as: 

As a qualified occupational health nurse, you will be required to attend trainings and workshops on a regular basis to keep your skills relevant and up-to-date throughout your whole career. Your registration with the NMC must be renewed every three years. To earn this renewal, it is required that you have worked a minimum of 450 hours and completed 35 hours of professional development during the past three years. For more details on re-registration, visit Nursing and Midwifery Council - staying on the register.  

Occupational health nurses, who could not work the minimum hours for whatever reasons in the past three years, have to take a return-to-practice course. These courses are available throughout the country and consist of a combination of theory and clinical placements. 

Hours and Income

Depending on your employer, you can work from 37,5 to 40 hours a week. Part-time and flexible hours may also be available. 

The following are the estimated salary levels for occupational health nurses in the NHS, according to the National Career Service: 

Occupational Health Nurse Salaries

   Minimum

    Maximum

New Nurses

   £21,388

    £25,783

Experienced Nurses

   £30,674

    £40,588

Employers and Career Development

As an occupational health nurse, you can work with factories and retail chains, clinics, offices, universities, and, in fact, with any other organisation where there is a need in safe work practices and procedures. Experienced occupational health nurses have a choice of becoming self-employed consultants.

For further reading about occupational health nursing and current job vacancies, you can visit:

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