Name: Mary Fleming
Job Title: Agriculture Health Nurse – Occupational Health Nurse
Years of Experience: 19 years
Current Employer: Grady Memorial Hospital
Where: Delaware, Ohio
Education: Grant Hospital School of Nursing, diploma; Capital University, BSN; Ohio State University, working for MPH
Other Relevant Work Experience: RN since 1977
Salary: See the PayScale Research Center for the median occupational health nurse salary.
Nursing and Agriculture Jobs – Occupational Health Nurse Salary
The agriculture industry offers some of the world's most dangerous jobs, including farm machinery operator, farm worker, farm laborer and farm mechanic. In this Salary Story, occupational nurse Mary Fleming explains the dangers of the agriculture industry and what occupational health nurse jobs are really like. She also shares fun stories about how an agriculture health nurse can become a technical advisor for novels and how she won the most prestigious community health award, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leader Award.
PayScale: What is your Agriculture Health Nurse/Occupational Health Nurse job description?
I do patient follow-up for agriculturally related injuries, diseases, and fatalities. Some is by mailed questionnaire, some by phone, and some visits. Patient education, wound assessment, assisting with secondary injury prevention, hazard assessment, etc. Then, working with regional advisory board, design public health interventions like a tetanus campaign to get adults up to date with their boosters after a fatality and sales of first aid kits for on-farm use because of the number of trauma cases. We do research projects like the research to design a grain rescue tube that could be used on farms for grain engulfments because 92 percent of the people trapped to chest level die while they attempt to rescue them.
PayScale: How did you get started with occupational nursing in the agriculture industry? What motivated you to help with dangerous jobs?
I broke my hip on my grandparent’s farm and Dad had a major injury to his foot in the silo on our dairy farm. As a nurse I envisioned a program that would use public health principles, occupational health principles, and knowledge of agriculture to change the situation. Agriculture is the most dangerous industry in America with 29 deaths per 100,000 per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A few years later I learned about funding available from the CDC for a program called Occupational Health Nurses in Agricultural Communities. I was blessed to work with our Ohio Department of Health staff and the NIOSH division of the CDC as we implemented the program. Since then we continue to pioneer new initiatives that save the lives of farmers, their employees, their families and others in agribusiness.
PayScale: What do you love about your occupational health nurse job?
I love working with the farmers. As a farmer, I understand the independence, the work ethic and the tough economic climate that farming is. I respect their dedication to do things right and to succeed even when the weather makes it almost impossible. I am currently working with a paraplegic who will return to farming full time. I arranged for him to meet with engineers who can work on workplace modifications. I have worked on occupational nursing issues like preventing secondary injuries, managing his health, using positioning to reduce the risks of skin breakdown, etc.
PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face in your job as an occupational nurse?
The biggest challenge is funding the work because we need to find sources, raise money, and obtain grants and contributions to support the work. It is almost like doing two jobs – doing the work and also raising the funding for it. The other challenge is getting things done when you are a pioneer who is clearing the path. The position requires a high degree of independence, self motivation, and ideas. There are only about 200 agricultural nurses across America, so maintaining contact and support is important.
PayScale: What advice would you give to someone interested in agricultural or occupational nursing?
Network with as many other agricultural nurses as possible and with as many organizations and funders as possible. These connections are what have made this position possible for me.
PayScale: What are the most interesting things that have happened in your occupational nurse job?
I was asked to be a technical advisor to the authors of two different teen adventure books. One was a new Hardy Boys book because the author was incorporating our grain rescue device in the first chapter when the main characters had to use it to get one of them out of a grain engulfment. It took about a year to get the book published and the author signed a copy for me. His pen name is Franklin Dixon. The other author needed someone to tell her about an electric fence and cardiopulmonary resuscitation after an electrocution for her book, Among the Brave. She included an acknowledgment in the front of the book. Finally, I received the most prestigious community health award, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leader Award in the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. where my sons were able to have some of Tom Cruise’s birthday cake from Steven Spielberg while they were filming Minority Report. Leaders had to be nominated by a patient and could be doing any type of community health work. There were 577 nominees and 10 winners. I was so blessed to be one of them. I was asked to meet with an agricultural safety specialist from Australia when he came to America because the nurse from the CDC thought I was one of the people worthy of his limited time. I just feel so blessed by the opportunities I have had to work on saving the lives of some of the hardest workers in America.