An occupational health nurse is a registered nurse who monitors and assesses worker health in relation to the job functions workers perform and the hazards they may experience on the job. Extensive training, education and preparation is required to become an occupational health nurse. However, the nursing field is growing and employment for registered nurses is expected to increase by 20 per cent through 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational nurses made an average salary between £34,341 and £45,851 in 2010, according to PayScale.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
Complete general education courses. Most nursing schools will not formally admit you until you have completed a minimum number of general education courses and courses that are prerequisites to the nursing program. Prerequisite courses usually include basic science courses such as biology and chemistry, and courses in human physiology and anatomy. Advanced science courses such as organic chemistry may also be required prior to nursing program admission. Keep your grade point average as high as possible, especially in these prerequisite courses to increase your chances of getting accepted into a nursing program.
Finish nursing school. After you have completed your general education courses and have been fully admitted to the nursing program, you can take courses directly related to the nursing profession. Nursing school classes include courses in basic pharmacology, nursing theory and nursing practice. During nursing school you will also gain hands-on experience by completing clinical rotations in doctors' offices and hospitals. You can complete either an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in nursing to become a registered nurse. A bachelor's degree will more likely expand your job opportunities.
Obtain a nursing license. Once you have completed your nursing education, you can qualify to sit for the national licensing exam. All 50 states recognise the NCLEX-RN as the standard nursing exam for licensing, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some states have additional requirements beyond passing the exam though, so check with your state board of nursing to determine your requirements.
Pursue a master's degree in nursing with a specialisation in occupational health. You can also pursue a general master's degree in nursing and complete a postgraduate certificate program in occupational health. These programs will emphasise hazards in the workplace and their affect on employee health. Other areas of knowledge emphasised in these programs include epidemiology and toxicology.
Get certified in occupational health nursing from a certifying agency such as the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses. Becoming board certified is a voluntary, but it can indicate to employers that you have reached the highest standards in the field. Complete the certification program along with 3,000 hours occupational nursing experience. Take the occupational health nursing exam which consists of 150 multiple choice questions.
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