Nursing and Midwifery Council needs to recognise occupational health competencies

A morning in the working life of an OH nurse on a manufacturing chemical site:

  • In at 8am. Working hours normally 8am to 2pm. Eight people booked in for routine health surveillance advice, screening done, advice on noise/hearing and protection given.

  • Complications: two have ‘painful ears’, so have to be investigated and can’t wear ear plugs. One thinks he has symptoms of prostate cancer… Will have to find the time to talk quietly to him and give advice. He will need an urgent GP referral and letter. Case notes have to be written, review appointments to be made, letters to GP, manager to be advised. Three people waiting with other problems to attend to.

  • Appointment at 9am with HR. Rush to HR for discussion, re difficult ‘long-term absence review’ and pressure from management for a decision from OH for the business needs. HR need another report, please. The GP in this long-term absence case is not helpful to OH whatsoever. Need to discuss with Royal College of Nursing for some legal advice. Takes 20 minutes to get through to the right person and discuss.

  • 9.45am appointment booked on site to advise all site contractors on chemical awareness. Late for this – they’re all waiting.

  • Called in the middle of discussions to someone having an anxiety attack. Has reacted to new anti-depressant medication. He works in a manufacturing area. Need to look up side effects, advise his manager he will be off, refer urgently to GP… Another letter to be written, document case notes.

  • In the middle of quietly trying to settle this employee down and manage the situation, someone comes in with a chemical burn.

  • Fortunately, the first-aiders can deal with all of the above. This is quite typical of how a day goes. I have three voicemails to answer, one being an employee whose wife has epilepsy. He cannot cope, what should he do, he can’t come into work. I have to contact his manager now or men will be working 12 hours, write an e-mail, record in notes and advise.

  • IT work waiting and absence statistics to be entered.

So if the question arises: what contribution did an OH nurse make today to people’s lives and the working environment, the answers are above.

Then there are the institutions and individuals I have supported, including the business needs of several companies on a site employing 600 people, people’s jobs by preventing and dealing with accidents and illness at work, the Department of Work and Pensions and other government departments, hospitals, employees’ families, GPs, and the Health and Safety Executive.

I have been in the job for 20 years, work alone on a part-time basis and am very experienced.

I have worked in high-risk manufacturing and chemicals, the food industry, car manufacturing, steel works and pharmaceuticals.

I have to be IT competent, trauma and ‘burns’ trained, an ergonomist, a counsellor, a medico-legal adviser, first-aid trainer, presenter, health promoter and a manager. I also have to be qualified in audiometry, spirometry, venepuncture and respirator training and fitting.

There is probably more that I do automatically and haven’t recalled.

And yet the Nursing and Midwifery Council dares to call us specialist community public health nurses, and won’t recognise my diploma from 15 years ago which took me three years to complete! I am disgusted.

It doesn’t matter to me so much as I will be retiring soon, but I am sorry for any younger OH nurses.


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