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RMCOEH’s Occupational Health Nursing program, which will utilize Weber State’s Annie Taylor Dee Simulation Center, shown, is one of the first major initiatives stemming from the center’s transition in 2021 into a multi-university partnership between Weber State and the University of Utah. Photo credit: Weber State University

Learn More About OHN Program

 

Businesses and other employers are clamoring for more occupational health nurses.

These nurses, who are specially trained in occupational safety and health, are critical members of occupational and environmental health and safety teams. They do everything from performing health and safety assessments to treating injured workers to designing workplace safety initiatives — in short, nearly any activity related to managing the health of a workforce, a role that enables them to make a tremendous impact on the lives of workers.

Yet there is a significant shortage of occupational health nurses throughout Utah and the surrounding states.

Now, RMCOEH is stepping up to meet the demand.

The center is launching an Occupational Health Nursing program within Weber State University’s Annie Taylor Dee School of Nursing, which is the largest nursing school in the state. Students who complete the program, which is targeted at those who hold a bachelor of science in nursing, will earn a postbaccalaureate certificate and be prepared to pass the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. certifying board examination. Students will be required to complete five courses totaling 15 credits to earn the postbaccalaureate certificate. In addition to nursing-specific courses, they will take core classes with other RMCOEH students on other multidisciplinary topics related to occupational and environmental safety and health.

The first nurses in the program are expected to begin classes this fall.

The creation of the program is one of the first major initiatives stemming from RMCOEH’s transformation into a first-of-its-kind partnership between Weber State and the University of Utah. Prior to 2021, the center operated solely within the University of Utah. Weber State’s nursing program is nationally recognized and has produced more than 7,000 graduates in its history.

Jodi Waddoups, MSN, director of the OHN program, said significant enthusiasm is building for the program among stakeholders.

“I am excited about this program and the opportunity to introduce nurses to the field of occupational health nursing and advocate for and promote OHN best practices,” she said.

For RMCOEH Center Director Kurt Hegmann, MD, MPH, the launching of the program is a long time coming. The center previously had an Occupational Health Nursing program that was ended in 2002, and given the importance of the discipline, Hegmann has long sought an opportunity to create a new one. That opportunity came when Weber State became involved with RMCOEH.

“This is something that’s been missing from our center like a hole in our hearts,” he said. “We know occupational health nurses are in demand, and we know how important occupational health nurses are in protecting workers. We’re pleased to be in a position where we can prepare nurses with the training to be successful in this field.”

While the program will initially offer a postbaccalaureate certificate to students, RMCOEH aims to transform it into a full-fledged graduate degree program in the coming years. 

RMCOEH Deputy Director Matthew Hughes, MD, MPH, has been heavily involved in the monthslong effort to get the Occupational Health Nursing program off the ground. He said the strong support from Weber State, as well as the Utah Legislature and RMCOEH Advisory Board, underscores the importance of providing this training for nurses.

“We’re excited to get nurses into this program,” he says. “For one, our training is going to make a big difference for employers who want to hire occupational health nurses. And the nurses who come through our program are also going to be an asset to RMCOEH. Our other trainees will benefit from being in classes with the nurses and interacting with them. That adds to the interdisciplinary nature of our training, which is at the core of RMCOEH.”

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