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Occupational Health Nursing as a Career

As a healthcare professional, you care about the health and safety of others. Turn that passion into a career that returns employees to their homes and families better than when they arrived at work.

Occupational Health Nurses (OHNs) are Registered Nurses (RNs) who have graduated with a Certificate or Diploma from a recognized Occupational Health Nursing program and/or who have achieved the level of COHN(C) with the Canadian Nurses Association.   The primary role of the OHN is to coordinate the delivery of comprehensive, equitable, quality occupational health services for workers and worker groups. While specific roles and responsibilities may differ within organizations, the focus is to support and promote worker and workplace health and safety.

Occupational Health Nursing encompasses the promotion, maintenance and restoration of health and the prevention of illness and injury.

As an OHN, you will:

  • Influence the health of worker populations

  • Support workers health

  • Contribute to a company’s profitability


Role of Occupational Health Nurses

OHNs provide a vital role in worker health promotion. From development to delivery of wellness programs, they support the general health and well-being of workers. The OHN’s responsibilities encompass a wide range of job duties, including but not limited to:

Disability Management

  • Provide case management for ill or injured workers (WCB, STD or LTD).

  • Ensure a safe return to work from leave for employees.

  • In collaboration with health professionals, implement modified work programs 

  • Provide recommendations regarding workplace accommodation.

  • Provide complex disability case management support including referral to specialists as deemed appropriate.

Emergency Services

  • Ensure compliance to provincial and federal first aid legislation.

  • Provide first response and first aid.

  • Participate in emergency response or emergency response planning.

  • Participate in Pandemic planning.

Health and Safety Training

  • Identify worker health and safety training needs.

  • Provide health and safety training in a variety of areas including, but not limited to, WHMIS, personal protective equipment, immunization requirements, health promotion and hazard awareness.

  • Work with other skilled personnel to deliver specialized education or training.


Legal and Regulatory Compliance

  • Work with employers on compliance to meet the standards of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in their jurisdiction.

Education Requirements 

OHNs are Registered Nurses (RNs) who have graduated with a Certificate or Diploma from a recognized Occupational Health Nursing program and/or who have achieved the level of COHN(C) with the Canadian Nurses Association.  Completion of a formal Occupational Health Nursing Program is required to write and pass the Occupational Nursing Certification Exam from the Canadian Nurses Association to obtain the Specialty Designation as a COHN(C).  Depending on your educational background, you may be able to write the Certification Exam without completion of a formal OHN program, please check with the CNA directly.

Work Experience

Three to five years of general nursing experience is recommended prior to commencing work in the field of Occupational Health.


Professional Responsibilities
  • Maintain active registration under your applicable provincial or territorial nursing regulatory body.

  • Maintain continuing competency requirements as outlined by your applicable provincial or territorial nursing regulatory body. 

  • Must practice in accordance with relevant provincial/territorial and federal legislation, code of ethics, professional practice standards, workplace policies and procedures, and human rights legislation.

  • Maintain competent practice through knowledge of current best practices.


Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) OHN Specialty Certification

CNA certification is the nationally recognized Specialty Credential for Nurses. To become certified, you must pass a rigorous computer-based exam during one of two exam windows annually. Your exam preparation will be unique, depending on what you already know in the specialty. CNA offers many exam preparation resources.  

Continuing Education

Legislation and work environments are continually changing and therefore, it is very important for the OHN to maintain current knowledge and expertise in the Specialty Practice. Continuing education credits are required for certification and re-certification at the COHN(c) level.

You’re not alone. If you’re new to the OHN field or want to learn more, join AOHNA to leverage a community of occupational health and safety professionals who have been where you are today. Swap stories, exchange best practices, and share resources.
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