Occupational Health Core Areas of Knowledge and Competence

It is impossible to simply describe an extremely complex and dynamic process like occupational health nursing by focusing on its core tasks or activities. Occupational Health Nurses (OHA) learn new skills every day, adapt current practices to meet changing needs, and develop new solutions to problems. Their practice is never static and is always improving based on a core set of skills.

It is possible, however, to identify the core competencies and knowledge that occupational health nurses use within this limit. This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but to provide an indication of the broad range of skills that occupational health nurses use in their practice.

The Clinician

Primary prevention

OHAs are skilled in primary prevention. In order to minimize the danger of exposure, the nurse can identify, assess, and plan interventions. Occupational nurses have the ability to consider factors such as human behavior and patterns in relation to current working practices. The nurse can help with the identification, correction, and adjustment of work factors, the selection of personal protective equipment, and the prevention of industrial diseases and injuries. She also provides advice on matters concerning the protection of the environment. The occupational health nurses are close to the workers and have the knowledge and experience to help identify and correct any problems in the workplace.

Emergency care

OHA is a registered nurse with extensive clinical experience and expert knowledge in caring for sick or injured patients. If such duties are part of their job, the nurse may provide first aid care to workers who have been injured at work. This role is often required in cases where there are hazardous conditions at work or the workplace is far from other healthcare facilities. The occupational health nurse who works in mines, oil rigs, desert areas, or other locations where there is not yet a fully developed health care system will have a broad range of emergency techniques and may have acquired additional skills to help them fulfill their role. Others may provide additional support to those who work in areas where emergency services are available.

Nursing diagnosis

Occupational health nurses can assess client’s needs and formulate appropriate nursing care plans. They work with clients or groups of patients to address those needs. The nurse can then evaluate and implement nursing interventions to meet the care goals. A nurse plays a key role in assessing individual and group needs and can plan, analyze, interpret and implement strategies to reach specific goals. The nurse uses the nursing process to help improve workplace health and the overall health of the workers. Nursing diagnosis is holistic and does not only address a specific disease. It also considers the entire person and their needs. This is a health-based model, not a disease-based one. Nurses have the skills to use this approach with the patients they care for.

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