Occupational Health: Core Aspects of Knowledge and Competence, Part 1

It is not possible to describe a highly complex and dynamic process such as for example occupational health nursing simply with regards to core activities or tasks. Occupational Health Nurse (OHA) are constantly learning new skills supergreens, adapting current practices to generally meet new needs and developing new approaches to solving problems and therefore their practice is not static but is constantly improving in relation to a core selection of skills.

However, in this limitation it is possible to describe those core regions of knowledge and competence that occupational health nurses use. The following list is not designed to be exhaustive, but instead to give an indication of the wide selection of competencies that occupational health nurses demonstrate in practice.

The Clinician

Primary prevention

The OHA is skilled in primary prevention of injury or disease. The nurse may identify the need for, assess and plan interventions to, as an example modify working environments, systems of work or change working practices to be able to reduce the danger of hazardous exposure. Occupational health nurses are skilled in considering factors, such as for example human behavior and habits with regards to actual working practices. The nurse may also collaborate in the identification, conception and correction of work factors, choice of individual protective equipment, prevention of industrial injuries and diseases, in addition to providing advice in matters concerning protection of the environment. Because of the occupational health nurses close association with the workers, and knowledge and experience in the working environment, they’re in a great position to identify early changes in working practices, identify workers concerns over health and safety, and by presenting these to management in an independent objective manner could be the catalyst for changes in the workplace that result in primary prevention.

Emergency care

The OHA is just a Registered Nurse with a lot of clinical experience and expertise in dealing with sick or injured people. The nurse may, where such duties form part of their job, provide initial emergency care of workers injured at the job prior to transfer of the injured worker to hospital or the arrival of the emergency services. In many instances, where hazardous conditions exist at the job, or where in actuality the workplace is far removed from other health care facilities, this role will form a major section of an occupational health nurse’s job. Occupational health nurses employed in mines, on oil rigs, in the desert regions or in areas where in actuality the health care systems are not even fully developed will be acquainted with a wide selection of emergency care techniques and may allow us additional skills to be able to fulfill this role. For others, who are working in situations where in actuality the emergency services are available, they may simply offer an additional level of support beyond that provided by the industrial first aider.

Nursing diagnosis

Occupational health nurses are skilled in assessing client’s health care needs, set up a nursing diagnosis and formulating appropriate nursing care plans, together with the in-patient or client groups, to generally meet those needs. Nurses will then implement and evaluate nursing interventions designed to accomplish the care objectives. The nurse includes a prominent role in assessing the needs of an individual and groups, and has the capacity to analyze, interpret, plan and implement strategies to accomplish specific goals. By using the nursing process the nurse contributes to workplace health management and by so doing helps to boost the healthiness of the working population at the shop floor level. Nursing diagnosis is just a holistic concept that doesn’t focus solely on the treatment of a certain disease, but instead considers the complete person and their health care needs in the broadest context. It is just a health based model rather than disease based model and nurses have the skills to use this method with the working populations they serve.

General Health advice and health assessment

The OHA will be able to give suggestions about a wide selection of health issues, and particularly on the relationship to working ability, health and safety at the job or where modifications to the work or working environment could be made to take account of the changing health status of employees.

In many respects employers are not solely concerned with only those conditions that are directly caused by work, but do want their occupational health staff to help address any health related problems that’ll arise which may influence the employees attendance or performance at the job, and many employees appreciate this level of help being provided to them at the workplace because it is so convenient for them. In particular the development of health care services to men at the job, younger populations and those from ethnic groups could be most effective in reaching these sometimes difficult to reach populations.

Research and the utilization of evidence based practice

In addition to utilizing information and knowledge created by research in several fields to support activities that relate solely to the occupational health component of their role, occupational health nurses will even utilize fully research information available from many fields to help support the general health of the working population.


Occupational health policy, and practice development, implementation and evaluation

The specialist occupational health nurse may be involved, with senior management in the company, in developing the workplace health policy and strategy including facets of occupational health, workplace health promotion and environmental health management. The OH nurse is in a great position to advise management on the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of workplace health management strategies and to participate fully in all these stages. Possibility to execute that role will depend upon level of nurse education, skills and experience.