To ensure occupational health nurses have their education aligned to a service vision, we are proud to launch today, following work with a number of partners and stakeholders, a new guidance document called: Educating Occupational Health Nurses. As well as setting out the recommended approach for nurse education going forward, this document incorporates ‘general prompts’ for HEIs and lecturers in assessing and refreshing OH nursing educational programmes. It also lists the requisite ‘theory, knowledge and Educating Occupational Health Nurses skills’ that must be included into education programmes to ensure excellent, high quality OH services (and to manage any increase in education capacity).
The guidance acknowledges the essential contribution that Occupational Health Nurses make and can further contribute to the public health and prevention agenda, but recognises that approaches to education may not always develop Occupational Health Nurses against a well-defined curricula, that considers the broad aspects of the role alongside skills and competencies required to address current and future workforce needs.
Why is this guidance so important?
Over recent decades, levels of lifestyle-related chronic ill-health conditions have increased. The nature of work has also substantially changed and organisations now employ multi-generational workforces. As a result, a greater emphasis on health and wellness has emerged. This has a particular focus on the impact of physical and mental health on performance, capability, engagement and productivity in addition to the prevention and management of sickness absence and accidents at work. In future, occupational health practice may also extend beyond the workplace to those who are economically inactive. However, there is also a shortage of dedicated qualified occupational health practitioners to undertake this work.
Occupational health nursing is an important part of the public health workforce. However, occupational health nursing finds itself at a time of change, therefore it was timely to review priorities for educational programmes to consolidate and develop a new approach going forward. Occupational health nurses recognise that their educational programmes must continually evolve and adapt in order to meet new workplace challenges as well as to continue the valuable work of the profession.
An Occupational Health Nursing Working Group of interested stakeholders, including educators and experienced occupational health practitioners, was established, to define how to develop and enhance present day education programmes, refocusing on the depth and breadth of curriculum topics, informing the taught elements of courses and supporting the translation of theory into practice.
The Working Group has developed an Educating Occupational Health Nurses document which sets out a recommended approach for nurse education going forward. It incorporates ‘general prompts’ for higher education institutes and lecturers in assessing and refreshing occupational health nursing educational programmes. It also lists the requisite ‘theory, knowledge and skills’ that must be included into education programmes to ensure excellent, high quality occupational health services (and to manage any increase in education capacity).
This new guidance should prepare those who are responsible for providing appropriate occupational health nursing courses to ensure that their ongoing educational needs are met so that they can completely and skilfully service the needs of both employer and employees.
It is hoped that this guidance will also raise the profile of the role and clarify what occupational health nurses do and as a secondary purpose will enthuse nurses to consider this branch of nursing, as well as enabling employers to utilise this valuable resource in the most effective way.
We hope that you will enjoy reading and using this guidance.
Please share widely and help us to celebrate the contribution of occupational health nurses at the same time as supporting changes in education to enable us to address the needs of the workforce today and in the future.
Pauline Watts, Nurse Lead for Quality, Mental health and Learning Disabilities, Public Health England