Contact UsRieneke Holman, PhD
Interim Occupational Health Nursing Program Director
RMCOEH Graduate Academic Advisor
Supervising the care of patients who’ve suffered workplace injuries. Leading a team that is designing a program to promote healthy living habits among a company’s workforce. Evaluating potential hazards at a job site and crafting preventive measures.
Occupational health nurses do this and much more—sometimes all in one day—in a diverse, engaging discipline that impacts countless workers. At the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, we understand the essential role occupational health nurses fill, from protecting worker health and safety to managing organizational risks, and are committed to equipping our trainees with the knowledge they need to thrive in this career path.
What is Occupational Health Nursing?
Occupational health nursing is focused on the health, safety, and well-being of workers. This includes evaluating and treating patients—but in contrast to many other nursing disciplines, occupational health nurses often spend the majority of their time outside the treatment room. They are specially trained in occupational safety and health, allowing them to tackle bigger-picture responsibilities aimed at protecting workers, ranging from devising emergency response plans to providing training in workplace safety at seminars.
A certified occupational health nurse (COHN) may work in private companies, hospitals, clinics, labor organizations, consulting, academia, government, and many other settings. COHNs perform nursing, health promotion, health and safety assessments, safety program management, case management, counseling and crisis management, legal and regulatory compliance, and nearly any activity related to managing the health of a workforce.
RMCOEH’s Occupational Health Nursing (OHN) program provides the education and skills needed to take advantage of the tremendous career options available in this discipline, including leadership and management opportunities.
The program, which culminates in a graduate certificate, provides BSN-level nurses with the education and preparation to pass the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. certifying board examination and to enter and excel in the exciting world of occupational health. The graduate certificate will satisfy 2,000 of the required 3,000 hours of work experience to be eligible to take the certifying board examination.
A BSN is prerequisite for admission to the program. The certificate consists of five courses totaling 15 credits. All are three-credit, graduate-level courses. Learners can complete the certificate in as few as two semesters but may take up to two years to allow for concurrent employment. Learners will complete two occupational health nursing courses at Weber State University, 6010 Fundamentals of Occupational Health Nursing and 6020 Occupational Health Nursing Role Development. Additionally, the nurse will enroll in three courses taught at the RMCOEH campus in downtown Salt Lake City and/or University of Utah Research Park campus. Online learning options are coming in future years. Enrollment, course registration, and tuition is administered at WSU. The three additional required courses offered at the RMCOEH are: OEHS 6370 Occupational Epidemiology, OEHS 6760 Management and Administration of Occupational Health and Safety Programs, and OEHS 6750 Fundamentals of Industrial Hygiene. An elective may be substituted for a required course for learners that demonstrate equivalent education or experience in a core course area.
The news is good: Demand for occupational health nurses is high, and it’s expected to stay that way in the years and decades ahead as organizations grapple with the challenge of keeping their workers safe and healthy. Many occupational health nurses work directly for businesses or other organizations that have enough employees to require in-house health and safety programs, though jobs are also available in hospitals and other settings such as governmental organizations and insurance companies.
With an average salary of $99,000, according to a 2022 survey from the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, occupational health nursing is also one of the most lucrative fields within nursing, making it a particularly enticing career path for people who envision making a difference in hundreds—or even thousands—of lives on a daily basis.
The American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. and the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses provide a significant amount of information for occupational health nurses and people considering joining the field.