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So You Want To Be An Occupational Health Nurse?

A message from Mary Doyle, Director of Continuing Education and Deputy Director for the Johns Hopkins Education and Research Center for Occupational Safety and Health. 

To anyone thinking about becoming an occupational health nurse,

I started out in cardiac ICU but stumbled into this profession 30 years ago after I moved back to the area and never looked back! I hope that I can help you gather some information on the field and suggest some opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills that will be helpful in entering the specialty. Many companies are looking for someone who can combine a health/ safety focus with wellness and health promotion.

  • American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) is the main professional association that represents occupational health nurses. Their national conference will be held online June 5-6, 2024. Membership is primarily nurses and nurse practitioners. The local sections are Northern Virginia, Maryland Area (Timonium area north of Baltimore), Metro Washington (we meet at the National Geographic Society in DC) and Seneca Valley of MD (meet in Rockville or other DC suburb.) A large regional conference with the four sections is held every other year at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD.
  • The credentialing organization is the American Board of Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN) and is responsible for the certification of occupational health nurses. You have to hold a RN license and have 3,000 hours of occupational health experience in the past five years in order to sit for the exam OR complete a certificate program in occupational health nursing for academic credit (please see the eligibilty page at ABOHN for more detailed information).
  • The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health certificate program in Occupational and Environmental Health requires a minimum of 18 credits and must be completed in three years.
  • full-time and part-time/online MPH program is also offered by the school. The full time format is a concentrated 11 month course of study while the part time option is completed over a period of two to three years.  
  • Another professional organization is AOHP, The Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare. Membership is a bit broader than AAOHN as physicians, PAs, industrial hygienists and safety professionals are members and its focus is primarily the hospital setting. There is a chapter section that meets in Silver Spring. I am e-introducing you to Donna Zankowski who is the past chapter president of Seneca Valley of MD AAOHN and also a member of AOHP. She can answer any questions you may have about AOHP and their meetings. 
  • There are multiple continuing education courses that would prepare you to enter the field of occupational health nursing at a much lower cost than an academic certificate program. They are:
    • Overview of Occupational Health Nursing - an online self paced study series for nurses new to the field or who are preparing to sit for the ABOHN exam. 15.0 continuing education nursing credits are awarded. The fee to access the online modules is variable, please click on the link for more details. 
    • NIOSH-Approved Spirometry Course - a 2.5 day course to prepare you to administer spirometry tests. You are required to have this course before you can perform spirometry testing in the occupational health setting. The course fee is $735.00 and the course offers 19.5 CNE credits. 
    • CAOHC Approved Hearing Conservation Course - a 2.5 day course to prepare you to administer hearing tests. You are required to have this course before you can administer manual hearing tests in the occupational setting. 20 CNE credits are through AAOHN. The course fee is $710.00. 

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions about becoming an Occupational Health Nurse! I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,


Mary Doyle, MPH, RN, COHN-S/CM
Director, Continuing Education Program
Deputy Director, JHU Education and Research Center for Occupational Safety and Health
615 N Wolfe St, Rm W7517, Baltimore, MD 21205