All OHNs should have a university education

I am writing in response to Chris Packham’s letter in the November issue of Occupational Health.

I am a practicing qualified OH nurse who greatly advocates the need for OHNs to be educated at university.

For too long, OHNs were seen as ‘factory nurses’ who treated injury and illness in the workplace. I will agree that treatment services remain appropriate in some workplaces but these tasks should be performed by treatment room nurses, which would free highly-skilled qualified OHNs to provide the holistic, proactive, and diverse service that is required to meet the needs of today’s workforce.

Experiential learning is invaluable in nursing as in any profession but let’s not detract from the need and desire of nurse specialists to attain the same level of expertise as their colleagues in the professions allied to medicine.

I am tired of hearing from all quarters that nurses should learn their skills on the job and don’t require higher education. I have yet to hear the same being said of other professionals, such as physiotherapists and social workers.

This notion is made worse when it comes from a layman, who obviously has no concept of the knowledge and skills base required to provide an expert level of nursing care in today’s society.

Nursing has struggled for many years to achieve equal status to that of other healthcare professionals, and a university education goes a long way to achieving this.

The speciality of OH nursing is as diverse and complex as the client base it serves, and so employees can only benefit from having a highly-educated expert in the field responsible for their work/health balance.

There is no substitute for an empathic nurse with excellent interpersonal skills, and I would argue that these attributes are intrinsic to nursing as a whole, but when they are accompanied by a first-rate education, not only is the profession enhanced but care delivery standards rise accordingly.

Anne Marie Henery,

OH nurse, Glasgow

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