A decade of working in the ER provided a solid foundation when Loretta B. Gudenas, RN, M.Ed., BSN, BS, COHN-S, CHES, decided to change her area of practice. Her current employer, Cleveland Clinic, contracts her services as an occupational health nurse out to industry. Loretta explains the responsibilities and importance of her role as an occupational health nurse.
My occupational health nurse career started in 1999 after a very enjoyable ten years in the Emergency Department. Wanting to get away from the shift changes, working weekends and holidays, I was offered the opportunity to transfer to employee health and start my career as an occupational health nurse. I now work as a contractor through Cleveland Clinic @Work for a lighting industry company.
One never truly knows the scope of the occupational health nurse’s role until you work in this discipline. I think that can be true of so many other areas in nursing as well. After working in occupational health, I found out how essential the occupational health nurse was to employees in manufacturing, industry, the airlines and government. The occupational nurse will find employment anywhere there is a worker who needs to have protection and promotion of their health. The occupational health nurse performs a wide range of duties to keep the employee in compliance, strives to prevent work related illnesses and injuries, and promotes the health and safety of the workers. Over the years, depending on my place of employment, they were many challenges; however, this year of COVID has proven to be the biggest challenge of all working to keep everyone safe. Employees want to have the knowledge and information needed to be safe at work and at home.
This year, 2020 has affected all our lives and has made us look at our workplaces from many different viewpoints to see how we can optimize safety. Hopefully the lessons learned will focus on active problems and potential effects that COVID-19 has placed on all in the community and workplace. As we delve deeper into this pandemic, being an occupational nurse and healthcare provider, I see that our goal is to protect and promote health through collaboration with many disciplines--to seek and keep all safe and healthy whether at work or in the communities where we live! The occupational health nurse educates, promotes, and supports the worker/employee dealing with their health and safety.
In my years as a nurse, I have truly enjoyed the role of an employee/occupational health nurse. There is always something different—it is almost like being in the Emergency Department.