International Paper’s Occupational Health Nurses Are Leading a Community of Safety

Jun 11, 2024 1:20 PM ET
A group of people posing for a photo in front of a helicopter

The Nurse is In

“After helping send people down the right path, I feel like I am making a difference here in the lives of our employees. That’s a good feeling, and it’s one of the best parts of my job.”

Stanley Coppola, RN, OHN, International Paper’s Franklin, Va., Pulp Mill, was not always an occupational health nurse (OHN), but he always found ways to support those around him. He began his career in workers’ compensation insurance, while volunteering as an emergency medical technician. He became an emergency room RN just outside the heart of the Big Apple – New York City. Now, a little more than a year into his role at Franklin, Coppola, like the rest of IP’s OHN team, sees the strength of International Paper’s culture of safety within the communities where IP operates.

“It’s a small town. Everybody knows each other,” said Coppola. “It’s one thing to have coworkers you want to keep safe, but, when it’s family or close friends that you’ve known forever, they take ownership of watching out for each other.”

For our OHNs at IP, everything begins and ends with safety — nothing is more important than team members getting home to their families at the end of each shift. To make this possible, it requires teamwork to look out for each other and dedicated safety professionals to ensure everyone is following procedures and protocol.

A Better Pill to Swallow

Angela Conlay, RN, OHN, has lived just a 30-minute drive from the Mansfield, La. Containerboard Mill nearly her entire life. Caring for her coworkers means caring for the people who make her community feel like home.

“Not only do we help when people are hurt, we do everything we can to prevent anything from happening in the first place,” she explained. “We educate as much as we can before, during and after anyone comes into our offices.”

Led by Donna Fudale, IP occupational health program manager, OHNs take the tall task of educating employees to heart. With regular weekly meetings, they discuss current topics, best practices and support each other in focusing on their facilities' unique needs. They also collaborate with each site’s environmental health and safety (EH&S) teams.

Being able to watch and support our safety team educating our team is amazing.

– Angela Conlay, RN, OHN

“They aren’t pulling the teams into classrooms for eight hours at a time. Instead, they are going to the crews wherever they are to have open and hands-on discussions in their own work areas. Approaches like this matter to people because it helps things to stick.”

The Ripple Effects of Positive Impact

The concept of community plays an immense role in each of our mill’s culture of safety. Communities have been the heart of IP’s dedication to team members and safety for more than 125 years. There are many collaborative efforts, such as conversations and health fairs, to build trust and foster wellness – inside and outside the facility.

The annual health fairs organized by OHNs support employees even further by helping connect team members to a wide range of local community health services. These events offer eye exams, hearing tests, mammograms, dermatology screenings, safety and personal protective equipment demonstrations, opportunities to talk to physicians from hospitals and Veteran Affairs medical centers, and more. Every fair tends to look a little different, but each OHN pours a sky-high level of care into each one.

The most memorable moments are when I can use my nursing skills to help a coworker in need, like training our emergency medical responders and then hearing how they were able to apply their training to help their family members or close friends outside of work.

– Elizabeth Bryan, RN, OHN

“The most memorable moments are when I can use my nursing skills to help a coworker in need, like training our emergency medical responders and then hearing how they were able to apply their training to help their family members or close friends outside of work,” said Elizabeth Bryan, RN, OHN, Columbus, Miss., Pulp Mill, with nearly15 years of IP service.

In honor of Occupational Health Nurses Week at International Paper, the best appreciation anyone can send to their facility’s OHN is to take the time to say thank you and rest assured knowing they are there to help and will communicate any possible health and safety concerns. Angela Conlay said it best: “None of it matters if our employees are not taken care of.”

About International Paper

International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a global producer of sustainable packaging, pulp and other fiber-based products, and one of the world's largest recyclers. Headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., we employ approximately 39,000 colleagues globally who are committed to creating what's next. We serve customers worldwide, with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, North Africa and Europe. Net sales for 2023 were $18.9 billion. Additional information can be found by visiting

About International Paper - EMEA

In Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA), International Paper focuses on the production and marketing of fiber-based packaging and specialty pulp, employing approximately 4,400 people. As a leading supplier of high-quality corrugated containers for a multitude of applications, we serve customers throughout the region from our network of two recycled containerboard mills and 23 box plants in France, Italy, Morocco, Portugal and Spain. Specialty pulp is made in Gdansk, Poland. Other products available from International Paper in the region include a variety of Kraft linerboard and other pulp products.