Occupational health nursing practice in Australia: what occupational health nurses say they do and what they actually do

Collegian. 2006 Jul;13(3):18-24. doi: 10.1016/s1322-7696(08)60528-4.


This study investigated current activities of occupational health nurses (OHN) in Australia related to the applicability of and their involvement in emergent role, wellness-based practices and traditional role and illness-based practices. A questionnaire encompassing the eight Areas of Practice as articulated by the Australian College of Occupational Health Nursing (ACOHN) competency standards was used to obtain data from 93 OHNs affiliated with ACOHN. More traditional role Areas of Practice such as treatment services, health assessment and rehabilitation services were seen as more applicable to their practice and a substantial amount of time was spent on them. Managing occupational health and safety (OH&S) service' was the only emergent area that was a substantial part of the OHN's role. Less time was devoted to other emergent and pro-active areas of OHN practice, such as illness and injury prevention, health promotion, health education and research into OH&S. While less time was allocated to emergent Areas of Practice, and they were ranked more lowly they were considered to be applicable to practice. The findings of this study suggest that OHNs in Australia may not be engaging fully in all Areas of Practice that have been articulated by the ACOHN, particularly emergent role activities. Although Australian OHNs perform all the activities articulated in the ACOHN Areas of Practice, their focus is still primarily illness and injury based, and also management. While the profession is supportive of emergent role activities, there is a need to debate possibilities, undertake research into barriers and supports for emergent role activities, more clearly articulate future directions for the OHN role, and develop strategies to support OHNs as they develop their professional role.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Health Nursing*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*