Strategies to facilitate professional development of the occupational health nurse in the occupational health setting
Background: Education and experience are important components in the ability of occupational health nurses (OHNs) to promote high-quality care and competence. OHNs will increasingly require the skills and knowledge to base care on best evidence, to use critical thinking and demonstrate advanced leadership and decision-making skills to develop and enhance services in a more complex and diverse occupational healthcare environment.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to identify the needs for professional development of the OHN in the occupational health setting.
Method: An explorative, descriptive, contextual generic and qualitative research method was used in this study. The purposive sampling method was used as the OHNs surveyed described their personal need for professional development in the occupational health setting. Data was collected by means of semi-structured individual interviews. Eight interviews were done by an interviewer who held a doctoral degree in community health nursing and a qualification in occupational health and was affiliated with a private occupational health institution at the time of the study. The interviews were conducted during August 2012.
Results: The OHNs reported that professional development needs have to be identified by the OHNs. Short courses need to be designed by training institutions and should be attended by the OHNs to improve their operational functioning on a day-to-day basis in the occupational health setting. The OHNs experienced that their role and function in the workplace were not valued by their managers. The results of this study revealed four major themes, namely constraints hindering the OHN in developing professionally, positive aspects identified by the OHNsregarding the need for professional development, professional development needs of the OHN and suggestions of how to meet the OHNs' professional development needs.
Conclusion: There is a need for OHNs to identify their professional development needs and recommendations were made to meet these needs.
Keywords: Professional development, Occupational health nurse, Occupational health setting