The clue is in the word “occupational”: these nurses specialise in providing healthcare in a workplace setting.
An occupational health nurse’s job might involve anything from providing basic first aid and healthcare screening, to preventing healthcare problems at work through risk assessment, education and training and other initiatives.
They might manage employee sickness, develop sickness and health policies, rehabilitate staff or carry out the pre-employment medicals needed for some professions.
Occupational health nurses are well versed in health and safety legislation and champion the effect of work on health. They are employed by a range of organisations, from commercial and industrial companies, to health services and education organisations.
These guys can be found working for airlines, hospitals, local authorities or even private consultancy firms.
Salary & benefits
The salary for newly qualified nurses is around £21,000 a year. After specialising and gaining more experience, occupational health nurses could earn around £31,000 to £35,000 a year.
Senior nurses and managers could earn more than £38,000 a year.
Working hours will depend on the employer. A typical occupational health nurse will work around 40 hours a week. They might work normal working hours (e.g. nine to five-thirty) or work shifts. Those working shift will expect to have more unsociable hours.
Broadly speaking, working hours will largely be far more regular and sociable than hospital nurses.
Self-employment and part-time work aren’t uncommon amongst occupational health nurses. Some work by themselves, whilst others will be employed as part of a health team for a large company.
This is not an entry level position – candidates will have at least one or two years’ experience as a registered qualified nurse under their belt before entering an occupational health nurse position.
Although the entry requirements for nursing are set to undergo a complete change from September 2013 onwards, nurses currently need to obtain a pre-registration diploma of higher education or a degree in nursing, which takes three or four years to complete.
Furthermore, all adult nurses are required to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, formerly known as CRB, or Criminal Records Bureau) check.
Generally, nurses must also have good communication skills, patience, emotional and mental strength, and high levels of self-motivation and confidence.
Training & progression
Upon successful completion of pre-registration studies, nurses are required to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and move into full-time work. Registration needs to be renewed once every three years and is dependent on the maintenance of professional development requirements.
Nurses also need to attend training courses throughout their career to keep their skills fresh and up to date.
Those looking to become occupational health nurses will then take a one or two year degree or postgraduate occupational health nursing programme, which will lead to registration as a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse.
Nurses might also look to gain a certificate in health and safety, like the NEBOSH general certificate.
Career progression will depend on type of employer and area of work, but occupational health nurses might look to advance to more senior managerial roles, or become self-employed and establish a practice as an occupational health consultant.