Survey: Employers think they can't afford OHNs

Many want cost/benefit analysis before hiring

Before a company will consider hiring an occupational health nurse, management must be able to see a cost/benefit analysis and successful business case studies.

This was among the findings the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) gathered in a new survey of employers who do not have occupational health nurses on staff, indicating that many employers still view staff occupational health nurses as unaffordable luxuries.

From the survey, the AAOHN captures a perspective on some of the historical obstacles still facing occupational and environmental health nurses, according to AAOHN president Susan Randolph, MSN, RN, COHN-S, FAAOHN.

"By understanding what does and does not foster corporate leadership's understanding of the value of the [occupational health nurse's] contribution as a business partner, we can make strides toward cultivating, improving, and advancing the profession," says Randolph.

The survey was conducted in February 2006 and polled approximately 1,000 employers who do not employ occupational health nurses. More than 83% of those responding said they have never employed an occupational health nurse primarily because they did not believe they could afford the position.

Almost 70% of those surveyed said they would require a true cost/benefit analysis to justify hiring an occupational health nurse, while 60% said they would require case studies to prove the worth of having an occupational health nurse.

But it's not just money, the companies told AAOHN. Lack of understanding about what occupational health nurses can do and what role they play has prevented 46% of them from hiring nurses, they said.

Randolph says that having information about what companies know and don't know about the role and contributions of occupational health nurses will help the association focus its message to employers who do not employ nurses.