Occupational health nurses, also known as occupational and environmental health nurses, help to protect workers from occupation-related and environmental hazards. They focus on the restoration and promotion of health as well as the prevention of injury and illness, working closely with employees and employers to ensure workers remain safe in their working environments from things like chemicals, machinery and even computer screens.
Like many other nursing and healthcare roles, occupational health nurses enjoy the flexibility to work as a permanent staff member, or on travel jobs throughout the country.
What Is an Occupational Health Travel Nurse?
An occupational health travel nurse has similar or the same responsibilities that someone in a permanent role would have, such as developing and implementing safety and health programs, documenting employee illnesses and injuries in a workplace, assessing the work environment for potential hazards, treating employee illnesses and injuries, overseeing and implementing emergency and disaster programs, counseling staff on mental and physical health issues and monitoring employee health status. Instead of being a permanent staff member, they work directly with a recruiter at a healthcare travel company who helps to set them up on travel jobs in various destinations across the country, typically for 13 weeks at a time.
The Benefits of Being a Travel Occupational Health Nurse
Some say occupational health nursing is one of the best kept secrets of the nursing profession as it offers an interesting, fast-paced work environment, without the high stress that comes with life and death situations that can come with high acuity patients. These nurses are typically more focused on preventative care, helping to support people in maintaining or even improving their health, making it a rewarding position as well as a high-paying one.
Being a travel occupational health nurse offers even more benefits, such as the opportunity to earn an even higher salary while enjoying free housing, getting paid to travel, experience new places and potentially learn more new skills with exposure to various working environments.
How Much Does a Traveling Occupational Health Nurse Make?
The average salary for an occupational health nurse in a staff role ranges from $76,500 to nearly $95,000, depending on multiple factors such as education, certifications, additional skills and experience as well as the specific location. Traveling occupational health nurses can make well over $100,000 depending on the state in which they work, with the highest earnings in California, Washington DC, Massachusetts, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada and New York. The total compensation can be significantly more with free housing and all benefits those on travel nursing jobs receive.
How Much Experience is Needed to be an Occupational Health Travel Nurse?
Most facilities require at least a year of experience to work as an occupational health travel nurse – many require two. You’ll also need to have strong assessment skills and be ready to jump into action should a patient’s condition decline. Confidence and compassion are a must.
How To Become an Occupational Health Travel Nurse
- Become a Licensed Registered Nurse
An Occupational Health travel nurse must first become a licensed Registered Nurse. To become a licensed RN you must graduate from a two year (Associate’s degree) or four year (bachelor’s degree) nursing program approved by your state Board of Nursing. Then the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) must be taken and passed. Bear in mind that many hospitals give preference to nurses who have completed the in-depth bachelor’s degree program.
- Gain Experience As a Registered Nurse
Once the NCLEX-RN has been passed, you may begin working as a Registered Nurse. To become an Occupational Health travel nurse, a minimum of one year of experience working in an Occupational Health setting is required – two years of experience is ideal.
- Obtain Credentials and Certifications
Occupational health nurses will need to be certified in basic life support (BLS). Currently, working in an occupational health nurse job does not require specialized certification. But the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN) highly recommends that OHNs obtain certification as a means of demonstrating professional competency and a commitment to continuous training.
- Compare Travel Nursing Companies
Once the required licenses, certifications and relevant experience are obtained, a nurse is eligible to become a travel Occupational Health nurse. There are hundreds of travel nursing companies with OHN positions. A nurse should speak with several companies and compare what each company offers. Factors to consider when comparing travel nurse companies are: housing (agency based vs. stipend), benefits (medical, dental, 401k, completion bonus), salary (hourly wage, allowances, overtime), guaranteed hours policy, and travel nursing destinations (availability of jobs in the geographic location the nurse wants to work).
- Choose a Travel Nursing Company & Accept A Position
After comparing travel nursing companies and what each has to offer, the nurse will decide on a position and will be offered a contract. The travel nursing contract must be read carefully and fully understood. The nurse must ensure all questions are answered before signing the contract and accepting the position.