Unqualified success or qualified confusion?

Welcome to the second of our special Occupational Health supplements, which is taking a look at career development for OH practitioners. This is a subject which divides opinion in the profession, as the pages of recent issues of Occupational Health have shown.

Although it’s clearly a good idea to raise the status and profile of OH staff, the jury is still out on whether making it an all-graduate profession is the best way to achieve this. We asked Cynthia Atwell and Anne Harriss, both of whom have recently contributed to this debate, to put their views forward for our opinion piece. I am sure you will agree that both have very interesting and compelling points to make, but this will obviously not be the last word on the subject – we already have letters on this subject which will be published in the November issue of Occupational Health. And if you feel strongly about routes into OH and the system of qualifications we now have in place, please contact us. We would very much like to here from you, and will publish as many letters as we can.

We also sought the views of staff new to OH at the beginning of their careers – both with nursing qualifications and experience, but from very different backgrounds. And despite their differing perspectives they both see the need for greater flexibility in OH training, and more clarity about the role of OH nurses.

Once in the workplace, developing the right networks and using influencing and other ‘soft’ skills to lobby for OH are often more important than qualifications. Our features on leadership in OH and making the business case for OH both reflect the fact that OH staff need to push their agenda more strongly if OH is to be taken seriously. The sticking-plaster approach is a direct consequence of the marginalised position of OH in most organisations in the UK today. Boosting your career won’t just benefit the individual OH nurse, but the organisation you work for and, ultimately, society as a whole.

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