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Occupational health nursing

The role of the occupational health nurse

Occupational health nurses work in a variety of settings mainly industry, health services, commerce, and education. They can be employed as independent practitioners or as part of a larger occupational health service team, often attached to a personnel department.

Occupational health nurses are considered to be leaders in public health in the workplace setting. The occupational health nurse role includes:

  • the prevention of health problems, promotion of healthy living and working conditions
  • understanding the effects of work on health and health at work
  • basic first aid and health screening
  • workforce and workplace monitoring and health need assessment
  • health promotion
  • education and training
  • counselling and support
  • risk assessment and risk management

Useful experience

You will usually need to be a registered nurse before applying for occupational health nursing posts. For information about training as a registered nurse, click here.

Useful experience for someone wishing to enter an occupational nurse role includes working in an accident and emergency setting and practice nursing. Learning about relevant legislation, management of sickness, development of manual handling policies and rehabilitation of staff with chronic conditions can be beneficial for someone wishing to enter this area of the health service and undertaking a role as an RCN Safety Representative provides an excellent opportunity to do this. Involvement in local initiatives, such as risk assessment, can also provide useful experience.

Applying for a post within a large occupational health service should enable you to gain adequate supervision and support, which is necessary for a first post in a different setting.


Knowledge of health promotion and education is desirable as well as an understanding of health and safety issues, health screening stress management and basic first aid. Membership of the RCN occupational health nursing forum can provide a useful means of keeping up to date with current developments. Also attending occupation health conferences can provide the ideal opportunity to network with nurses currently working within this field.

This article was originally published by NHS Careers