Internships give nurses inside look at OSHA

Occupational health program offers opportunities

Occupational health nurses can get the inside track on the workings of the U.S. Occupa tional Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) through spring and summer internships with the agency in Washington, DC.

The Occupational Health Nursing Internship program accepts six nurses per year, two in each of three eight-week sessions. Applicants must be enrolled in a graduate school occupational health program, but an internship can begin during the graduate program or immediately afterward, says Elaine Papp, RN, COHN-S, a health scientist in OSHA’s Office of Occupational Health Nursing, located in the Directorate of Technical Support. Previous interns have varied widely in age and experience, from those starting their careers to others having worked in the field, raised a family, and then gone back to school.

Whatever the case, "it’s a tremendously eye-opening experience," says Papp. "For those working in occupational health, OSHA plays a very big role in their practice. Being inside the agency, you get a completely different perspective than you do from being in the regulated community."

Program objectives are:

    • to synthesize the student’s learning needs with specific, contemporary OSHA activities;

    • to analyze and construct an innovative nursing approach to an occupational health and/or safety concern in collaboration with OSHA’s allied professionals;

    • to explore the occupational health nurse’s role in OSHA’s complex regulatory activities at the federal level.

Internship activities teach nurses about the pressures and influences that affect OSHA, Papp adds. Those activities typically include attendance at congressional, public, and budgetary hearings; meetings with labor union and management groups; and introductions to OSHA office directors.

In addition, each intern is assigned a project and must develop a product, such as a report or outreach document. Previous products have included publications such as Framework for a Comprehensive Occupational Safety and Health Program in a Hospital Environment; A Model Exposure Control Plan for Home Care; and Qualifications of Licensed Health Care Professionals: Questions and Answers.

"The agency gets the benefit of their freshness, knowledge, and ability to develop materials, and they get the benefit of seeing how the agency operates from the inside," Papp explains. "They also develop contacts, so when they’re in the work world, they know people in the agency and how the agency works. Most have a change of view and attitude after they come here; they’re not so afraid of OSHA anymore."

To be eligible, applicants must:

    • be a registered nurse with current licensure;

    • be a student in good standing majoring in a university-sponsored graduate-level occupational health program or public health program with a focus in occupational health;

    • have an academic background in occupational health with pending completion of no less than half the required credit hours in courses relevant to occupational health nursing (epide miology, toxicology, industrial hygiene principles, etc.);

    • have at least six months’ experience in occupational health or a related field;

    • present clearly defined educational and personal objectives compatible with contemporary OSHA activities.

Office of Occupational Health Nursing staff review all applications and rank candidates against documented selection criteria. Recom mended candidates are referred to the director of OSHA’s Directorate of Technical Support. Final selection is made based upon agency need and funding.

Interns receive a stipend. The amount varies, with the maximum at $6,500. Applications are available from university graduate programs in the spring and must be submitted by Nov. 30. For information about the program or obtaining an application, call Papp at (202) 693-1991.