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Our training programmes are inadequate, say occupational health nurses

Education programmes fail to prepare occupational health nurses for work, survey finds.

Education programmes are failing to prepare occupational health (OH) nurses for work, according to a national survey.

Half of the 1,429 OH nurses surveyed described the content of their training courses as inadequate and many highlighted a shortage of practice teachers and placements.

Four out of 10 respondents believed that OH nurses lack the knowledge to undertake core tasks and were concerned about their ability to work autonomously.

Specialist category

Most OH nurses said learning alongside other public health nurses, such as health visitors and school nurses as part of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s specialist community public health nurse (SCPHN) registration category, was not preparing them properly.

Eight out of ten called for a protected title for those who have completed an approved education programme, in the research published by Occupational Health [at Work].

The authors said the results demonstrated that the Nursing and Midwifery Council guidance principles for training OH nurses were not meeting the needs of the workforce.

Standards review

The NMC said it would look at OH nursing proficiencies as part of a review of post-registration standards.

‘We are aware of some difficulties with funding and limited placements and we will continue to engage with key nursing and midwifery representatives throughout our education programme,’ a spokesperson said. 

Research respondents called for educational centres of excellence for OH nursing to be established to improve training consistency. 

Effective clinical practice

Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing (FOHN) development group chair Jo Berriman said: ‘The findings will inform our discussions with the regulator about priorities for OH nurse education. Ensuring the quality and consistency of OH nurse education must be at the heart of what we do to deliver effective clinical practice and to safeguard the public.’

Last November, Public Health England published a document advising higher education institutes on the knowledge, theory and skills that should be part of OH nursing courses. This said OH nursing was in a ‘time of change’ and that there is a shortage of practitioners in the specialty.

The survey was run jointly by the FOHN development group and research and publishing group The At Work Partnership.

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