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Darlene Bunn, RN, BHSc(N), COHN(C,) COHN-S, CDMP

Certified in occupational health nursing

Why did you become certified 25 years ago? How has it helped your career?

My occupational health nursing career began in 1984, when I got a job with Nestle. Up until that point, I had worked in an intensive care unit at a small hospital and also a stress test office. Before my interview with Nestle, I had my work cut out for me. I had to learn about occupational health nursing quickly so I’d be chosen as the right candidate for this new position. I approached several skilled occupational health nurses and they coached me to prepare for the interview. My lifelong learning had just begun.

In 1989, I was devastated when my position was eliminated due to downsizing at the facility. I loved my work and was faced with some decisions about my future. So I became a self-employed entrepreneur in occupational health and safety. CNA certification became my personal criteria for establishing credibility and marketing my skills to small businesses. While developing my business, I studied for a year before writing the exam in 1990.

In 1991, GE Plastics became one of my clients and, over time, it turned into a full-time position. In 2012, I became an employee of SABIC Innovative Plastics, officially closing my business of 23 years. Like all medical and nursing fields, occupational health evolved; it began with a focus on managing first aid and disability claims and evolved to establishing health and wellness in the workplace, including the psychological safety of employees. Certification was my driver to achieving client contact hours — I often had twice the number of hours needed to recertify every five years — and to learning innovative practices. Emphasis on health and wellness has contributed to the strong organizational culture and physical health and safety of our workplace.

Do you have any messages you would like to share with nurses about the importance of continuous learning and certification?

For those considering certification, I encourage you to take the step forward to build your knowledge and confidence as a change agent in the organization where you work. Certification is a foundational element of specialized nursing and has provided me with a sense of pride and accomplishment. It led me to complete a diploma in occupational health nursing in 2002, a BHSc(N) in 2005, and I became a certified disability management professional in 2016.

What makes you most proud about being certified?

Passing the certification exam and maintaining my credential has always left me with a big sense of pride and accomplishment. The designation of COHN(C) and U.S. reciprocal certification provide me with a sense of accomplishment and success. It has driven me to strive towards completing my strategic goals and objectives.