Occupational health nurses are leaders of public health and care in the workplace. They specialise in the care and well-being of people at work.Occupational health nurses are qualified and registered nurses or midwives, many of whom have chosen to gain additional training and qualifications as specialist community public health nurses (SCPHN - OHN). Their additional training in public health enables them to assess the health needs of individuals, families and the wider community to promote good health and prevent illness.
Modern roles of OHNs are as diverse as clinicians to educators, case managers to corporate directors and consultants. The OHN’s responsibilities have expanded immensely to encompass not only the responsibilities previously stated but also a wide range of job duties, including but not limited to:
Case management: OHNs routinely coordinate and manage the care of ill and injured workers. Their roles as case managers have grown more sophisticated with the coordination and management of work-related and non-work-related injuries and illnesses, which include aspects related to group health, workers’ compensation, and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and short-term/long-term disability benefits.
Counseling and crisis intervention: Besides counseling workers about work-related illnesses and injuries, OHNs often counsel for issues such as substance abuse, psychosocial needs, wellness/health promotion concerns, and other health or work-related concerns. They may also assume primary responsibility for managing employee assistance programs or handling referrals to employee assistance programs and/or other community resources, and coordinate follow-up.
Health promotion and risk reduction: OHNs design programs that support positive lifestyle changes and individual efforts to lower risks of disease and injury and the creation of an environment that provides a sense of balance among work, family, personal, health, and psychosocial concerns. Immunization, smoking cessation, exercise/fitness, nutrition and weight control, stress management, monitoring of chronic diseases, and effective use of medical services are just a few of the preventive strategies to keep workers healthy and productive.
Legal and regulatory compliance: Whether it is the array of state and federal regulations put forward by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or laws that affect the workplace, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), OHNs work with employers on compliance with regulations and laws affecting workers and the workplace.
Worker and workplace hazard detection: Worker and Workplace Hazard Detection: OHNs recognize and identify hazards; monitor, evaluate, and analyze these hazards by conducting research on the effects of workplace exposures; and gather and use health and hazard data to select and implement preventive and control measures as a continual process. Examples include an analysis of the effects of toxic chemical exposure, development of plans to prevent work-related accidents, and an analysis of groups, not just individuals, to detect patterns, trends, changes, and commonalities as in pandemic situations.
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