Most people spend a large chunk of their adult life at work to support themselves and their families. It's an unfortunate truth that sometimes those workplaces aren't as safe as they should be as accidents can happen and illnesses can spread. It's the occupational health and safety nurse's job to help prevent injuries and treat illnesses related to the workplace.
People shouldn't face debilitating illnesses or injuries just because they've gone in to work on a regular basis. That's the fundamental principle behind occupational health and safety nursing. It's a broad profession, so a nurse's role will vary depending on her training and place of employment. Sometimes she is primarily employed to treat patients directly. In other cases, she will have a planning and managerial role. Whether through treatment or prevention, her ultimate goal is to keep workers healthy and safe.
Care and Treatment
When illnesses or injuries occur on the job, the occupational nurse is there to help. She will treat minor and serious injuries until a worker can be transported to a hospital. In the event of accidental exposure to inhalants or toxic substances, she will supervise the decontamination process and provide medications or antidotes as needed. She will also watch for patterns of recurring illnesses or injuries throughout the workplace.
Prevention and Planning
Recognizing potentially hazardous environmental factors or developing and maintaining workplace procedures is another large part of an occupational health and safety nurse's job. Her role includes identifying potential hazards before they cause sickness, or analyzing injuries and illnesses after the fact to sort out why they happened. Once she's identified the contributing factors, she can help the employer correct issues and minimize the risk of future occurrences.
Training and Certification
Occupational health and safety nurses are registered nurses who either hold an associate or bachelor's degree and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. The be certified in occupational health, she must have 3,000 hours of experience in the field or complete a certification program. She then must pass the certification exam administered by the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.