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Occupational Nurse Careers and Salary Outlook 2020

June 3, 2020 | Staff Writers

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Those interested in providing healthcare support to people in the workplace may find fulfilling careers in occupational nursing. These nurses administer care to employees with health challenges in many different workplace settings. Our guide explores the field, providing occupational nurse salary information and job outlooks for these professionals.

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What is an Occupational Nurse?

Occupational nurses work with employers and employees to ensure the safety and health of everyone in the workplace. In the event of a workplace injury, occupational nurses also provide care for injured employees and advise them on seeking any outside care they may need. Prevention often serves as an occupational nurse’s primary goal, and they may provide safety education to employers and employees to keep workplace illness and injury from occurring.

Occupational nurses provide important care and protection to every level of employee in many different work environments.


  • What Do Occupational Nurses Do?

    Occupational health nurses are a branch of registered nurses (RNs) that work outside of standard medical facilities, focusing on corporate and business health care. Some occupational health nurses specialize in psychological nursing and assist workers with low-level mental health concerns that don’t require medication or advanced medical care. Other occupational health nurses choose to stay in hospital settings to design, implement, and monitor health and safety protocols for medical professionals and patients.

    Occupational nurses aim to prevent and treat workplace injuries, along with acting as case managers for workers dealing with illnesses or injuries that occur within the workplace. These nurses also ensure compliance with legal regulations for worker safety. They may create programs to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce health risks among employees, providing education on stress management, nutrition, and different types of chronic illnesses. Occupational nurses also provide guidance on accessing available health services in the workplace and the community.

  • Where Do Occupational Nurses Work?

    Occupational nurses can generally practice anywhere people work. These nurses serve in many different roles and possess valuable skills that allow them a great deal of versatility in where they choose to work. Some nurses may find employment in more administrative or professional settings, working with other health professionals to design worker safety policies, while others may work specifically with employees to provide nursing and healthcare.

    According to employment data from the American Board for Occupational Health Nursing (ABOHN), the majority of occupational health nurses work in hospitals and medical centers, along with manufacturing and production settings, where workers may be at a higher risk for workplace injuries.

  • Skills That Could Affect Occupational Nurse Salaries

    Possessing skills in certain areas may affect an occupational nurse’s salary and earning potential. As a specialty field of nursing, occupational nursing requires you to focus on areas that most affect those in the workplace. This includes a strong working knowledge of infection control protocols, general workplace safety, and the promotion of general health wellness.

    An ABOHN survey of practicing occupational nurses identified specific skills that these nurses used most in their practice, such as providing treatment for workplace injuries, maintaining employee health records, complying with OSHA policy, overseeing any workers’ compensation claims, and monitoring any employees with physical limitations or restrictions of duty.

    In addition to nursing skills, occupational nurses should also possess strong listening and critical-thinking skills. They should effectively manage their time and maintain organization, as well.


How to Become an Occupational Nurse

For those wondering how to become an occupational nurse, earning RN licensure serves as the most basic requirement. To earn an RN license, you must complete a minimum amount of higher education, generally an associate degree in nursing (ADN), and some additional training in the field. Often, nurses earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) to boost earning potential, or due to their state nursing board requiring BSNs to practice.

Some colleges offer certificate programs in occupational nursing, and others may offer it as a specialization within their nursing programs. A current RN interested in assisting employees in the workplace and managing workplace health and safety could find a career in occupational nursing a great fit.

Education

An associate degree often serves as the basic requirement for earning an RN license. However, requirements for RNs vary from state to state, and some states require each RN to possess a bachelor’s degree. Occupational nurses must be RNs, and they generally complete additional training in occupational nursing, either in the field or as a specialization in their degree programs.

Earning an ADN can take about two years, and a BSN can take around four years. Some state nursing boards may require additional specialty certification or training for occupational nurses. In some cases, earning extra certifications can yield higher salaries.

Training and Certification

Occupational nurses take on many different roles within the workplace. They work as clinicians, case managers, coordinators, educators, and health promotion specialists. These nurses must possess additional training beyond the general nursing education provided in a nursing program.

Some occupational nurses receive this additional training within their degree programs through concentrations or specializations. Others pursue continuing education and professional development paths to gain the additional skills they need. This training takes place both in the field and the classroom. Most nursing programs require internships or supervised practice, as most states also require these experiences for licensure.

Many occupational nurses choose to earn specialty credentials through ABOHN. This association offers three certifications: certified occupational health nurse, certified occupational health nurse – specialist, and case management. All certifications require passing an exam.

Occupational Nurse Salaries and Job Growth

As a subset of general nursing, occupational nurses can expect to earn comparable salaries to RNs. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs made an average salary of $75,510 in 2018.

The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) Salary 2013 Survey found that occupational health nurses made an average salary of $82,070, higher than the reported average for general nursing. Reported salaries for occupational health nurses was around $150,000, with several factors affecting each nurse’s earnings.

Nurses with more experience and those serving in more advanced roles tend to earn higher salaries. Location, education, employer, and full- versus part-time employment all affect an occupational nurse’s earnings. Holding advanced credentials and certifications can also increase earning potential for occupational nurses.

Median Salary for Occupational Nurses by Career Experience

  • Entry Level: N/A
  • Early Career: $67,905
  • Mid Career: $73,010
  • Experienced: $70,403
  • Late Career: $75,140
  • Source: PayScale

    Related Job Salaries
    Registered Nurse Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse, Emergency Room Registered Nurse, Critical Care
    $63,393 $27,891 $43,528 $66,391 $72,656

    Source: PayScale

    Occupational Nurse Resources

    • American Association of Occupational Health Nurses AAOHN represents over 4,000 occupational health nursing members around the globe. The association aims to promote best practices in occupational nursing and advance the field through research. Members receive access to forums, webinars, networking opportunities, and discounts on conferences.
    • American Board for Occupational Health Nurses As a not-for-profit organization, ABOHN serves as the primary credentialing source for occupational nurses. The board offers three unique credentials for occupational nurses, all recognized by employers as the standard for advanced practice. ABOHN also offers award opportunities, access to job postings, and information for employers.
    • American Medical Association The AMA primarily advocates for patients and healthcare providers, offering support for physicians in court and legislation. The association aims to tackle public health issues in the country and advance medicine. Members receive access to a print and online scholarly journal, along with discounts on insurance.
    • Nurse.com Job Search Nurse.com offers access to continuing education courses, information on state requirements, and a blog on nursing careers. Additionally, the site’s job search tool provides nurses with a unique search engine to find nursing jobs in their specialty and geographic location.
    • American Nurses’ Association ANA has represented nurses for more than 100 years, aiming to advance the field and provide a voice for nurses in all specialties. Members can access free webinars, continuing education courses, American Nurses Credentialing Center certification, a career center, and online research journals. Nurses can also network with other professionals and save money on insurance.
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