front-line advocates for preventing illness and injury and protecting and promoting health in the workplace. As key members of the occupational and environmental health and safety workforce, they contribute to the nation’s health and productivity by mobilizing the knowledge, experience, and commitment of professional nursing to serve and help protect employees. OHNs work with employees in a wide array of settings that are associated with a diverse range of exposures and hazards, including agriculture, construction, health care, manufacturing, mining, services, trade, transportation, oil and gas extraction, and public safety. The role of OHNs is particularly important in protecting the respiratory health of America’s workforce, and respiratory protection needs to be a consistent component of nursing programs at all levels.
Through its work, the committee determined two types of essential components of the occupational health nursing curriculum related to respiratory protection. One is technical and includes hazard assessment; selection, use, care, and maintenance of respirators; medical evaluation and monitoring; and fit testing. The second pertains to behavior: to best serve the health of nurses, workers, and the public, the technically oriented material must be paired with education on ways for nurses to protect themselves from respiratory exposures and hazards, the potential consequences of not using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), strategies for effective behavioral change and leadership, and strategies to build a culture of safety. The committee found that respiratory protection content taught in occupational health nursing programs receives varying amounts of dedicated time and resources and is taught using a variety of didactic and practical approaches. To improve the respiratory protection curricula for OHNs, the committee makes seven recommendations that are detailed in this report. Box 1 summarizes the committee’s recommendations, which speak to the following areas: the responsibilities of OHNs, respiratory protection education and training, and incentives for respiratory protection education and training.
The Responsibilities of OHNs
Recommendation 1: Conduct a Survey of OHNs
The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), working in collaboration with NPPTL and other agencies and professional organizations,