An investment in nursing education and staff development should consider the reasons for participating in continuing education and professional development in order to improve planning for long term continual professional development (Joyce&Cowman, 2007:626). The aim of this study was to investigate the working environment of occupational health nurses as a determinant for professional development. A quantitative approach was used for this research study. A non-experimental, descriptive survey was conducted to collect data for this study because it reflects accurate characteristics of the various environments of occupational health. Data was collected using a questionnaire which was distributed to four SASOHN (South African Society of Occupational Health Nursing Practitioners) regions (Eastern Cape, Vaal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga) as the principal method of data collection. In terms of the educational needs identified it was evident in the study that the occupational health nurse would attend professional development programmes more often if their learning needs are identified prior to the programme. The occupational health nurse preferred one day workshops as the preferred method of continual professional development. The psychosocial needs of the occupational health nurses highlighted that there was little support in the office while attending professional development programmes and that assistance with administrative tasks at work were lacking. The findings of this study revealed various professional development barriers such as financial constraints, frustrations with regard to daily workload, discrimination against the profession, lack of discussions with employers with regard to staff development programmes, training material not being readily available and insufficient facilities such as an on-site library. It is also clear from the findings of this study that continual professional development will improve the self esteem and self worth of the Occupational Health nurses. For the occupational health nurse to develop professionally they need support from their employers and colleagues. The findings were evident that the employers do support the occupational health nurse to develop professionally by granting special leave to attend professional development programmes. Key concepts: Staff development, Barriers, Occupational Health nurse, Need, Psychosocial needs, Educational needs, Professional development. Copyright
Dissertation (MCur)--University of Pretoria, 2012.