Got Nursing Burn Out? Check Out Occupational Health Nursing

This weekend I had the honor of presenting at the California Occupational Health Nursing Conference. I’ve been to a lot of nursing conferences during my career but this one was radically different.These Nurses love what they do and have very high work satisfaction.

I was in a foreign land, even though I was only in Sacramento, CA. My Nursing experience has primarily been in hospitals except for a short stint in home care and an outpatient clinic. As with JCAHO, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, I associated OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration with necessary inconveniences such as getting an annual fit test for my TB mask, a mask I have never needed in the ten years I have been in Obstetrics. While we often complain, at the end of the day, we appreciate regulations that keep us safe.

photo from

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The Occupational Nurses I met had varied experience, education and roles. I was touched by how warm and welcoming they were. There was a sense of cohesiveness and camaraderie that is sometimes lacking in our profession. Many work independently, so they act as resources for each other and know each other on a first name basis. Their breadth of knowledge is broad. Not only are they experts on OSHA regulations to protect employees from health hazards and illnesses, they are experts on disability management, case management, worker’s compensation, health promotion, and counseling and crisis intervention. They also get creative, studying the impact of migrant workers in the wine industry, study the cardiac impact of on duty firemen and investigate conditions of garment workers nationally and internationally.

Occupational Nursing is a growing field because corporations save big bucks having a Nurse or Nurse Practitioner on site to manage employee health and wellness. Nurses may enter the field with a baccalaureate degree, often with nursing experience in community health, ambulatory care, critical care or emergency nursing. Many nurses pursue Masters degrees in public health, or Nurse Practitioner programs with specialties in Occupational Nursing.

While we all have stressors in our home and work life, I polled these Nurses about the impact their jobs have on their stress. The vast majority had worked at the bedside and unanimously agreed they were happier and less burnt out than they were when they were in a traditional role. So if you feel as if you have exhausted other work options, you may want to consider investigating a non-traditional career option as an Occupational Health Nurse.