What is an Occupational Health Nurse? : Job Description & Responsibilities

Safety is a major concern in the workplace. To provide nursing services at the workplace, occupational nurses are essential. They play a crucial role in keeping the workers safe by helping to identify and eliminate potential health hazards in the workplace. They play a vital role in keeping workers safe from potential threats found in the workplace environment.

What is an Occupational Health Nurse?

Occupational nurses play a vital role in communities and workplaces. They provide an invaluable service to employers, employees, and individuals, offering medical expertise to enhance safety and well-being. Occupational nurses recognize and address occupational hazards, promote health education initiatives, and provide care for injured or ill employees. They also serve as a liaison between healthcare providers, employers, and employees to facilitate effective communication and treatment plans. In short, occupational nurses are essential in ensuring the health of individuals in the workplace.

What Unit is an Occupational Nurse?

Occupational nurses are typically part of a larger healthcare team, such as an occupational health unit or department. They usually report to an occupational health physician and/or supervisor. Depending on the facility, they may also work in conjunction with safety personnel, physical therapists, and other healthcare providers.

How to Become an occupational nurse ?

Educational Eligibility

To become an occupational nurse, you must be a Registered Nurse (RN) with an Associate’s degree or higher in nursing. You must also have an active license and certification from your state’s Board of Nursing.


Most employers prefer to hire nurses who have experience working in the healthcare field, such as within hospitals, clinics, or other medical settings. Having experience or training in occupational health, safety, or industrial hygiene can be beneficial.


The American Board of Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN) offers voluntary certification for those who meet their criteria and pass the necessary tests. Many employers recognize this certification and may even qualify you for higher wages.

Continuing Education

 It is essential to stay updated with the latest healthcare trends and technology. Many employers require that occupational nurses take continuing education classes throughout their careers to remain competitive. Some states may also have specific continuing education requirements for nurses with a license or certification.

Essential Skills
  • Ability to effectively communicate with both healthcare staff and patients
  • Knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology
  • Knowledge of best practices in occupational health
  • Ability to assess patient needs and provide appropriate treatments
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Flexibility to adapt to changing workplace conditions
  • Problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • Strong organizational and time management skills
  • Ability to provide patient education on work-related health issues.

These are the core skills necessary to become a successful occupational nurse. With these skills, you can provide your patients with the best care they need while helping your employer maintain a safe and healthy workplace.

Pros and Cons of Being an Occupational Nurse


  • Opportunity to help people stay safe and healthy in the workplace
  • High demand for professionals with this specialty
  • Flexible hours with potential for overtime pay
  • Ability to work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities
  • Potential to earn an above-average salary depending on experience and location


  • Long hours and irregular shifts can make it challenging to balance work and personal life
  • Working in hazardous environments with the potential for exposure to toxins or infectious illnesses
  • Physical demands such as lifting, standing for long periods, or crouching down to examine patients
  • Potentially stressful situations involving patient care or medical emergencies
  • Limited opportunities for career advancement without a higher degree.

Salary of Occupational Nurse

Occupational nurse salaries can vary significantly depending on the location, experience level, and type of employer. According to Payscale.com, the average salary for an occupational nurse is around $69,000 per year. However, those with more experience and advanced certifications may earn up to $99,000 annually. In addition to a salary, many employers also offer advantages such as health insurance, paid vacation or sick days, and retirement plans.


What is the difference between an occupational health nurse and a registered nurse?

The primary difference between an occupational health nurse and a registered nurse is the specialty they focus on. While a registered nurse provides general medical care to patients, an occupational health nurse specializes in providing preventative or restorative care for work-related injuries and illnesses. They may also advise on workplace safety, ergonomics, and other environmental issues.

What is the job outlook for occupational health nurses?

The job outlook for occupational health nurses is very positive. As employers continue to emphasize workplace safety and preventive care, there is a growing demand for these professionals. The increasing population and need for workplace health services will also increase demand.

Are there any online courses available to become an occupational health nurse?

Yes, a few online courses are available for those interested in becoming an occupational health nurse. These courses typically cover workplace safety, medical terminology, and assessment techniques.

Final Words

Occupational nurses play an essential role in providing preventative care and helping to ensure a safe workplace. To become an occupational nurse, you must have an associate’s degree and certification from your state board of nursing. Additionally, having experience or training in occupational health, safety, or industrial hygiene can be beneficial. 

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