Occupational health nursing beyond nursing – why strategic thinking is so important

The workplace presents an opportunity for nurses to use strategic thinking and apply critical reasoning in support of clinical excellence and business objectives. I call this opportunity “nursing beyond nursing.”

Optimally, employers view occupational health nurses as experts, not only in employee health management, but as progressive leaders capable of assisting with the development of business initiatives that revolve around and through onsite services and clinics.

Strategic thinking has been defined as the generation and application of business insights on a continual basis to achieve a competitive advantage (R. Horwath, Strategic Thinker). Strategic thinking enables occupational health nurses to combine their roles as medical managers and business partners to address the needs of frontline workers and executives.

Meanwhile, critical reasoning in occupational health allows the nurse to utilize his or her experience to formulate individual treatment plans and design health promotion programs for entire working populations.

Nurses who practice in work settings typically function as gatekeepers for all healthcare-related services. Strategic thinking and critical reasoning help occupational health nurses successfully perform their balancing act. In acute care, patient care delivery is predictable and the nurse’s role is relatively well defined. Not so in the workplace, where patient populations are as varied as the needs that arise.

Occupational health nurses are in a position to develop the skill set to define and legitimize their role in the business environment. Taking the time to leverage experience and prioritize business objectives helps facilitate this type of leadership.

Guest blogger Cathy Loiselle will present a free UL webinar on Nursing Beyond Nursing: A Workplace Health and Safety Stewardship Model, on Aug. 28 from noon to 1 p.m. CDT. During the webinar, she will describe how she applied her experience and strategic management skills to develop onsite clinic and practice guidelines, help Raytheon achieve OSHA Voluntary Protection Program status, and successfully integrate health and wellness programs.