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A healthy approach to work

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Diane Romano-Woodward found occupational health so satisfying she decided to set up her own business

diane romano woodward

diane romano woodward

A businesswoman and nurse rolled into one is perhaps the most apt description for Diane Romano-Woodward. She’s an occupational health nurse, president of the Association of Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners (UK) and director of occupational health provider Sunny Blue Sky – a business she created.

“I think most nurses imagine OH nursing to be a lot of treatment in factories but this isn’t the case,” says Ms Romano-Woodward. “The nearest analogy is that we are health and safety advisers with an emphasis on the ‘heath’. As public-health nurses, we use our specific expertise to help prevent work-related ill health.”

“I think most nurses imagine OH nursing to be a lot of treatment in factories but this isn’t the case,”

Diane previously worked as an operating theatre nurse at a large hospital. It wasn’t until she came to act as a safety representative for the Royal College of Nursing that she thought about working in the specialty.

“I interacted with the OH practitioners in the hospitals as I represented members and their health issues,” she says. “I had a break from nursing when my children were small, and when I returned it was as a bank nurse in the OH department. I was lucky and got a scholarship to undertake a master’s degree in OH.”

A large part of becoming an OH nurse is helping people to get back into work after they have had time away due to ill health. And, sometimes, the specialists and GPs in charge of treating employees are not aware of the workplace modifications needed to help the returnee.

It is because of this lack of assistance that individuals may find themselves spending more time away from work than necessary.

“We have to come to grips with accident prevention in this country,” says Ms Romano-Woodward.

“But many people work for firms with no OH service – that is most small and medium-sized enterprises. And there is still a lot of work to be done to improve conditions. Look around – you’ll see hairdressers who wheeze and catering workers with red raw hands.”

“We have to come to grips with accident prevention in this country”

It was this desire to improve working conditions and the realisation that OH services were not getting the recognition they deserved that gave Ms Romano-Woodward the idea to set up a company.

“It occurred to me that companies charge a great deal for the services of an OH nurse, little of which trickles down to the individual providing that service,” she says. “To get a larger slice of the cake and also to practise the hours and days I choose, I decided to set up my own business.”

Ms Romano-Woodward hired an accountant, insured the business, registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and was then in a position to start offering her services.

“It was really quite easy,” she says. “Many experienced OH practitioners do the same. It is not really for newly qualified OH practitioners as you do need to have a range of experiences. And, as well as the health side of things, you need to understand how to run a business.”

Ms Romano-Woodward suggests that registered nurses interested in taking a similar path look into the specialty. She says it gives you the chance to see a great variety of workplaces and the fact that demand for nurses qualified in this specialty exceeds supply is another reason to explore it further.

“What I like about the specialty is the breadth of conditions we come across”

But for those who are already qualified in OH, she suggests learning as much as possible about how businesses function, such as taking a course in sales, as well as participating in evidence reviews or serving the nearby OH community.

“What I like about the specialty is the breadth of conditions we come across. You don’t know whether the next client will consult about diabetes, a stress-related condition, a road traffic accident and musculoskeletal injuries, or a skin condition,” she says.” It’s never dull.”

Gilcy Aquino

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