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School of Public Health
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Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing

What is an Occupational and Environmental Health Nurse?

Occupational and environmental health nursing is the specialty practice that provides for and delivers health and safety services to employees, employee populations, and community groups.

The practice of occupational and environmental health nursing is one that is focused on health promotion, illness and injury prevention, and the protection of individuals from occupational and environmental hazards. The underlying knowledge base is multidisciplinary and includes the sciences of nursing, medicine, public health (e.g., epidemiology and environmental health) and occupational health (e.g., toxicology, safety, industrial hygiene and ergonomics). It also incorporates the social and behavioral sciences and principles of management and health care administration. Occupational and environmental health nurses are advocates for employees and community groups, fostering equitable and quality health care services and safe and healthy environments in which to work and live.

Occupational and environmental health nurses act as members of a multidisciplinary team that includes employees, employers, other health and safety professionals, and professionals from fields with related expertise such as employee benefits, human resources, law, and finance. Nurses collaborate with team members to identify health and safety needs; prioritize interventions; develop and implement interventions and programs; and evaluate care and service delivery. While the scope of any individual nurse's practice will vary, the OEHN's job duties typically includine, but are not limited to:

  • ·  Clinical and primary health care of occupational and non-occupational injuries and illnesses
  • ·  Case management of occupational and non-occupational injuries and illnesses
  • ·  Health hazard assessment and surveillance of employee populations, workplaces and community groups
  • ·  Investigation, monitoring and analysis of injury and illness episodes and trends
  • ·  Compliance with laws, regulations and standards governing health and safety for employees and the environment
  • ·  Management of occupational and environmental health services
  • ·  Health promotion and disease prevention strategies
  • ·  Counseling, health education and training programs
  • ·  Research related to occupational and environmental health

The role of an occupational and environmental health nurse varies with the level of their educational preparation, work experience, job position, and the area's market demand. Generally, nurses without a master's degree perform more clinical or technical direct care functions or services and may be required to have professional certification (Certified Occupational Health Nurse, administered by the American Board of Occupational Health Nurses or clinical practice experience prior to entering the field. The masters-prepared occupational health nurse typically functions in a managerial role as part of an interdisciplinary team that may cross several departments (e.g., health, human resources, and legal services) to provide consultation to all levels of the company. Although some masters-prepared OEHN's provide direct care to employees, they typically become more involved in department and program management, policy setting, regulatory compliance, program marketing or client relations.

More Information

"Nursing in Occupational Health" ( or

"The Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing Profession" (


The Midwest Center for Occupational Health and SafetyContact MCOHS