More emphasis on experience needed

Is it essential to be a nurse in order to become an occupational health practitioner?
This was the controversial suggestion made by Maureen Williams, professional
officer, community nursing and health visiting, of the Nursing and Midwifery
Council (NMC).

In her presentation ‘Competence to Practice’, Williams explained how the NMC
is undergoing an important consultation on ‘fitness to practice’, asking
members to help decide how competency may be determined.

She posed some difficult questions, including: is an academic qualification
a proxy for competence? Are OHPs being forced to acquire increasingly demanding
qualifications to maintain competence, which could mean we will end up with
"an exhausted workforce, all with PhDs"?

She suggested perhaps there should be a greater emphasis on practical
experience, saying: "We undervalue and don’t assess practice as a measure
of competence as much as we should."

During the break-out workshop session on this topic, delegates were split
into groups and asked to discuss:

– Factors that should be used to determine competence to
practice generally

– Factors that should be used to determine competence to
practice in OH specifically

– The level of qualifications required to achieve competence to

– Is it essential to be a registered nurse to be an OH

Unsurprisingly, the feedback from most of the delegates was
that a nursing qualification was an important element of the job.

All the answers were compiled by the AOHNP to be fed back to the
Nursing and Midwifery Council.

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