I’m a service manager for occupational health in the NHS, and my responsibilities include the recruitment and retention of staff, and general staff issues. We currently employ 40 staff, including nurses, clerical staff and four doctors, and it’s my responsibility to deal with the day-to-day operational issues involving that group of people.
Originally I wanted to be a policewoman, but unfortunately they found that I was short-sighted, so I wasn’t able to enter the police force. I wanted to do another career that involved helping people and contact with people, so I chose to do nursing. And, to enter occupational health, you have to do your general nursing qualification in your adult branch and then specialise after that. After hurting my back I had to look for an alternative career within nursing that didn’t involve moving patients, and so that’s why I chose occupational health.
I think you need to be very patient because you have to deal with a wide range of people, with a wide range of problems, some of them quite personal. So, you need to be a good listener. You need to be very patient because quite a few people take quite a long time to get to the point of why they’ve come to see you. You need to be extremely well organised, because you only have a set amount of time to see each person, so it’s difficult – if you’re overrunning, you don’t want to keep the next person waiting. And, I think you need to be able to relate to people in all levels of an organisation, from the chief executive level down right down to the domestic level, and be able to talk to them on their level, and put the information across in a way they can understand.
One of the challenging aspects of being an occupational health nurse is because legislation changes quite frequently, chemicals change quite frequently, new things are always coming out for you to expand and challenge your thinking and your roles.
I like working in a team, because there are members of clerical staff, nursing staff and medical staff, and we all have to work together for the patient’s best interest. And, every day is different; you just do not know what’s coming through the door, until the person arrives and tells you the reason why they’ve come down.
Once you’ve qualified as a nurse, if you really do want to do occupational health, the best thing that I can advise is that you contact somebody who’s working in occupational health and go and shadow them for a day. Or better still, if it’s in the NHS, try to get a bank contract, so you can actually go and bank for a few days a week in an occupational health department, and actually see if you really like it, because most nurses either love it or hate it.