Respect for Occupational Health

Guys Hospital Badge and Old nursing badge
Guys Hospital Badge and Old Nursing Badge

I was asked the other day how an occupational health professional could get management to take them more seriously and respect their occupational health advice and I sympathised.

How many times had I thought exactly the same thing?

The problem with having the tag of ‘nurse’ is that we seen as care givers. Managers view us as either a soft touch and easily hoodwinked or part of the NHS service and a necessary evil in the face of production targets.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been met with:

‘Oooooohhh matron!’ straight out of a carry on film, or asked if I still had my uniform and strangely, my fob watch?

Other questions too along the same lines…… Accompanied by intensive gazing in my eyes. I used to laugh it off and go along with the jokes although as this tended to get worse I realised my mistake.

Of course the few women managers I’ve worked with do no such thing and tend to avoid me. Not sure why but certainly true.

So I had the male managers lusting after me and/or ignoring my advice when young and inexperienced and both sexes avoiding me as I became more challenging. How can this change?

Would engineers be greeted with macho jokes by his team mates? Would the chief executive be greeted by a ‘Good Morning Mr Grace?’

Could a manager avoid talking to their peers about production issues?

I think not. Because the engineer, manager and the chief executive would not find it funny or productive. They would certainly not join in.

Here’s What to Do to Build Respect for Occupational Health

Now I advise occupational health nurses and safety professionals on avoiding banter; and although it’s difficult, maintaining a professional way will enhance your standing in the company. Most health and safety professionals work alone and keeping distance is a hard thing to do but if you want respect then act from a place of trust and show integrity in everything you do whether dealing with the employee’s or the employers.

Whatever you do, do not go native and gossip with the teams, keep up your neutrality, quote the law when making recommendations and justify why you think what you do.  Above all be consistent, calm and kind when dealing with all.

That is what we all need to do to gain respect for occupational health. Will it work for you?  Well it did for me. Not overnight but eventually.

Have you been overlooked, ignored or otherwise insulted in your quest for respect as an occupational health nurse or safety professional?

Let me know your experience. What did you do to improve things?

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