OH nurses should hand over tasks to OH technicians so they can focus on a co-ordinating role

OH nurses should hand over many of their traditional tasks to OH technicians so they can focus on advising senior managers and a co-ordinating role, a leading OH nurse educator told delegates at a recent conference. 
“It would free us up to do more challenging work,” Caroline Whittaker, senior OH lecturer at the University of Glamorgan, told delegates at the Association of Occupational Health Nurse practitioners conference held this month in London. “They [OH technicians] should aim to complement us, they shouldn’t replace the OH nurse.” 
Whittaker said OH technicians should be trained to take on tasks including health surveillance, data recording, health education, writing management reports, health screening, venepuncture, giving presentations on appropriate OH subjects, and health promotion.
She urged OH nurses to promote their nursing status and to be proud to call themselves nurses. “We’re a profession on the National Midwifery Council register and already have a qualification – that’s what makes us unique.”
She added: “You would never replace an OH physician, so I don’t see why you can replace an OH nurse.” 
Whittaker is launching new OH certificate and diploma courses at the University of Glamorgan, where technicians will take three modules with nurses. However, the nurses’ course will focus on management, whereas the technicians’ course will concentrate on clinical skills.
She acknowledged that the increasing use of OH technicians and their equivalents in other areas of healthcare raised issues about the lack of regulatory boundaries for their scope of practice, and the lack of a recognised education pathway for technicians.
Whitakker warned that OH nurses must “define where [they] are in the emerging public health agenda” and embrace a broader role, or risk being forgotten.
Whittaker said she planned to challenge the fact that in Wales, OH courses for other public health nurses, school nurses and health visitors were funded by public money, whereas OH courses had to be paid for by nurses or their employer. 

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