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Integrated care model is 'becoming huge'
(Editor's Note: This is the last of a three-part series on how occupational health professionals can survive in a down economy. This month, we cover how to explore other opportunities in occupational health if your department faces downsizing. Previous issues covered business skills that you must obtain and how to promote yourself and your expertise.)
Outsourcing occupational health services? If you think this may happen with your department and worry that it might be a bad thing, think of the other side of the coin: the opportunities this trend presents to you.
"I see more jobs are going to open up for occupational health, through outsourcing companies," says Karen Griffith, RN, BSN, MBA, COHN-S, senior program manager of global health, well-being and productivity at Chandler, AZ-based Intel. "Suppliers are emerging with industry-packaged health care models that blend occupational health with primary and preventive care in the workplace. This integrated care model for industry is becoming huge."
Occupational health jobs are opening up through these specialty vendors, instead of companies trying to piece together their own program, says Griffith. "I am seeing a lot of appealing jobs from these suppliers that provide services such as health coaching and wellness programs, along with occupational health." Occupational health, combined with wellness and preventive care, is becoming a bigger industry than it was previously, "and I am not sure that is such a bad thing," she says.
Jobs are 'natural fit'
This role is a "natural fit" for occupational health nurses, because prevention of injuries and illness is expanded to the overall health of the employee. "You are doing far more for the employees when a holistic approach is taken," says Griffith.
Griffith says that these new positions give you a chance to really make a difference for employees. "These emerging companies specialize in this integrated service mode, and provide training and support from experts in the field," she says.
Griffith thinks there still needs to be an internal occupational health team in place to coordinate the vendor who is supplying the services to run the health centers and oversee the core program direction. "But as far as the clinical work, it's exciting to see the how this industry is emerging to develop robust programs, as well as train and support the staff for companies," says Grifith. "The good news is these specialty vendors are really emerging as appealing companies to work for."
Different skills needed
To pursue these jobs, you'll still need core competencies in occupational health, but you'll need expanded skill sets. These skill sets include the ability to perform more comprehensive physical assessments, as opposed to specific reviews for injury and illness, says Griffith.
"Also, you'll need a fundamental understanding of emerging wellness initiatives that are taking place in the industry," says Griffith. For example, you'll need to implement health risk assessments and recommend age-specific preventive screenings for employees.
Griffith feels strongly that "the jobs of the future in occupational health will be with this emerging boutique industry. These companies are excellent employers to work for, and they are in the health field. So a company doesn't have to get into the medical realm, which oftentimes is not their core competency, when there are industries that specialize in the service."
For more information on job opportunities with outsourcing companies, contact:
Karen Griffith, RN. BSN, MBA, COHN-S, Senior Program Manager, Global Health, Well-being, and Productivity, Intel Corp., Chandler, AZ. Phone: (480) 715-8691. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.