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Nanci Forfellow, COHN(C)

Certified in occupational health nursing

Why did you become certified 25 years ago?

Way back in the day, becoming certified was the natural progression for having completed the collaborative community college program for occupational health nursing. Most occupational health nurses would be working and attending the courses in the evening. The college program was important because this specialty requires a broad base of knowledge in several areas, such as disability case management, wellness, ergonomics, medical surveillance, and safety. There was a lot of networking at the courses, which helped the nurses become more effective in their workplaces. Even then, any colleagues we met at conferences or professional associations who had their certification where held in high regard for those of us aspiring to complete the requirements to join their ranks.

Most of us, when we had achieved the requirements to write the certification exam, would join a study group. Trust me, we spent many quality hours studying! Exam day was stressful, but somehow we got through it and then spent a few weeks watching the mail with anticipation. The day the certificate and pin arrived, there was a true feeling of accomplishment! After all, this was a testament to our dedication to our specialty and a validation of our competence.

How has certification helped you in your career?

I have found that having my certification has helped me be the successful candidate for positions that I have applied for over the years. A lot of employers now know that an occupational health nurse with their certification has the knowledge and expertise to support their organization in a way that adds value to their business.

Also, the application of the knowledge acquired through continuous learning has been a huge benefit to me professionally. This requirement is so important in our constantly evolving speciality. If you want to be an occupational health nurse, you have to love learning.

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

My message is that in order to remain competent in our ever-evolving field, occupational health nurses must participate in continuous learning. It’s a lot of time and effort, but gives you a high degree of personal and professional satisfaction. The requirements to maintain our certification fits the bill!

What makes you most proud about being certified?

For me, there is a great sense of accomplishment in representing my speciality to the highest standard and delivering quality care to employees and supporting the employer. This has been achieved through determination, the support of my family and colleagues, and hard work — with some fun mixed in.