AAOHN platform to focus on safety, wellness, career

Hazard preparedness, workplace violence addressed

In creating the public policy platform that will guide its efforts through 2006, the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) includes priorities that reflect the changing role of occupational and environmental health nurses and the changing world in which they work.

This year’s public policy platform carries over the major policy priorities identified in 2005 — working conditions for health care workers, workplace violence, and health promotion and wellness — and adds emphasis to the evolving role of those in occupational and environmental health nursing.

The topics included in the policy platform this year are:

All hazard preparedness. Occupational and environmental health nurses play a critical role in helping employees, businesses, and communities plan for and respond to a variety of threats that could have a potential impact on the health and safety of employees, businesses, and the community at large.

Because occupational health nurses are trained in emergency response planning, injury prevention, loss control, and other skills needed in times of disaster, AAOHN supports policy that includes the workplace as a primary delivery system in responding to and mitigating human, natural, and technological work and community threats.

Confidentiality of health information. As health care providers, occupational and environmental health nurses have access to personal and work-related client health information, and with the privacy requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act are faced with an increased responsibility to protect the privacy of personal health information.

In its policy platform, AAOHN lends its support to the pursuit of federal legislation that would provide universal security standards and safeguards for protecting the confidentiality of personal health information without hindering employers’ ability to fulfill their administrative obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family Medical Leave Act, and workers’ compensation regulations.

Health promotion, wellness, and disease prevention. Always the backbone of occupational health nursing, work site health promotion and disease prevention remains a central priority for AAOHN. In its policy platform for this year, it cites a Department of Health and Human Services survey of select employers offering work site health promotion and disease prevention programs, in which employers realized a median savings of $3.14 in total health care costs for every $1 invested in employee health promotion.

Nurse licensure compact. Occupational health nurses, as well as nurses in other fields, are finding it more and more necessary to practice in more than one state, either because of the nature of their work or because they serve employers with sites in more than one state.

In response, many states have adopted the nurse licensure compact (NLC); states that enter the compact agree to recognize nursing licenses from other states in the compact. This allows nurses residing in compact states to practice in person or electronically in more than one state without applying for multiple licenses.

AAOHN supports the NLC because of the career flexibility it affords nurses, and for the opportunity for shared information among participating compact states.

Quality of work environments for nurses. Health and safety risks to nurses are key factors in the severe nursing shortage threatening the U.S. health care system. AAOHN supports initiatives that focus on strategies to foster safe and healthy work environments for all health care professionals.

Workplace violence prevention. Workplace violence accounted for 16% of all work-related fatal occupational injuries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. As with job safety issues, prevention is the key, according to AAOHN’s policy platform, and to that end, AAOHN supports legislative and regulatory initiatives that provide prevention techniques to businesses, communities, and health care professionals.

For more information on AAOHN’s 2006 public policy platform, go to www.aaohn.org.