Occupational health nursing from a physician's perspective was discussed. Occupational health nurses interact professionally with management, labor, safety specialists, industrial hygienists, and physicians. Occupational physicians recognize that they are heavily dependent on the skills of occupational health nurses to achieve the objectives of good health care for the workers. The nurse is usually the first health care professional that a worker sees; she can usually take care of the worker's problem without the need for a physician referral. It is noted that occupational health physicians and nurses have problems in common, the most frequent being related to the ability to communicate effectively with colleagues, union officials, workers, and management; other areas include matters of professional competency, maintaining credibility in the eyes of management and labor, and managing costs. Occupational health nurses apparently have difficulty with their role in the Workers' Compensation system. Besides providing initial treatment for work related injuries, maintaining accurate medical records, and assessing proper referral of injured workers, the occupational health nurse may act as an informational resource for management. While acting in this capacity, the nurse should be careful not to create an excuse for management to fire or transfer a difficult employee. It is noted that although management frequently presses occupational health nurses to justify their existence economically, studies have confirmed that occupational health nurses are a cost effective means of dealing with employee health problems and injuries.
Proceedings of the National Occupational Health Nursing Symposium: State of the Art and Directions for the Future, Cincinnati, Ohio, June 1-3, 1983