Occupational Health Nurse Certification and Training Programs

Occupational health nurses strive to make workplaces safer for employees. Training in this specialization usually happens at the graduate level, though some undergraduate programs also exist. To gain certification as an occupational health nurse, you'll need to hold a registered nurse license and meet educational and work experience requirements. Review the certification process here, and learn more about what occupational health nurses do. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Occupational Health Nurse?

An occupational health nurse (OHN) is a registered nurse (RN) who monitors workers and analyzes work environments to contain and reduce occupational hazards that could affect workers' health. These nurses also might care for workers who are ill or injured as the result of a workplace accident or personal exposure.

Key SkillsMonitor workers and analyze work environments, contain and reduce occupational hazards, care for workers that are ill or injured as a result of workplace accidents
Required EducationMaster of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Master of Public Health (MPH)
Common CoursesHealth and behavior science, policy and management, regulatory compliance, biostatistics, program planning
Professional CertificationCertified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) or COHN-Specialist (COHN-S), both offered by American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. (ABOHN)

What Training Would I Need?

Education specific to occupational health nursing typically is offered on the graduate level through Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Master of Public Health (MPH) programs, although undergraduate certificate programs also are available. Admission to a master's program usually requires a bachelor's degree in nursing and an RN license. You also might need 2-3 years of work experience.

Courses you might encounter in an MSN or MPH program in occupational health nursing include health and behavior science, policy and management, regulatory compliance, biostatistics, program planning, epidemiology, toxicology, ergonomics and industrial hygiene. You'll generally have to complete one or more practicums, field experiences or internships, and you might be required to complete a thesis.

These programs often are designed for working professionals and can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. Online programs in occupational health nursing are available; however, you'll likely have to attend some on-campus sessions or meetings, in addition to meeting practicum or internship requirements.

You also can find Ph.D. in Occupational Health Nursing programs. You might want to pursue a doctorate if your aim is to teach or conduct research at a university.

What Are the Certification Requirements?

The American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. (ABOHN) offers voluntary certification for occupational health nurses. To qualify for the Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) designation, you must be an RN with at least 3,000 hours of occupational health nursing experience over the past five years (www.abohn.org). In lieu of experience, you could complete an OHN certificate program.

To be eligible for ABOHN's COHN-Specialist (COHN-S) designation, you'll need to be an RN with at least a bachelor's degree in nursing. You also must meet one of the following requirements: 3,000 hours of experience, completion of an OHN certificate program or completion of a graduate degree program in occupational health nursing.

Both certifications also require passage of an exam. The COHN examination focuses on direct clinical care, while the COHN-S exam also tests your knowledge of case management, consultation, education and general management.

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