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How Occupational Medicine Can Improve Productivity in the Workplace

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Occupational medicine – often referred to as ‘occupational health’ – refers to the practice of preventing, recognizing and treating work-related illnesses and injuries. 

Occupational medicine physicians (M.D. or D.O.) have usually completed an occupational medicine residency and/or a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) degree or both.  The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) offers a board certification process in a range of occupational medicine specialties including environmental health, corporate medicine, human performance, medical review officer, transportation, public safety medicine, work fitness and more.

Other occupational medicine providers are in a category called Advanced Practice Professionals (APP).  Nurse Practitioners (NP) can provide care under their own license, functioning much like a physician.  Some earn doctorate degrees in a specialty making them a DNP.  Physician Assistants (PA) provide care under the supervision of a physician.  Like physicians, APP’s perform pre-hire and medical surveillance exams and treat injuries including wound care and musculoskeletal trauma.

Together, occupational medicine providers become specialists in interpreting and applying medical care standards in ways that enable employers to be in compliance with federal regulations related to health and safety while helping manage the impact of various state workers’ compensation rules. 

Numerous national organizations and certifications set guidelines or standards for managing occupational health for specialty professions including the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), U.S. Military, the Department of Transportation (DOT), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and others.

When managing work injuries, occupational medicine providers not only stabilize and treat initial injuries but they determine causation (is it work-related) and work restrictions (under what circumstances can an injured worker return to activity).  An occupational medicine providers’ knowledge of industries and specific job tasks enable them to consult with employers, claims adjusters and Qualified Rehabilitation Consultants (QRC) in order to best help an injured work remain as mobile and active as is safely possible.

Besides injury care, care for conditions like neuropathy and other specialty exams, occupational medicine providers offer and oversee work-related illness and injury prevention services including vaccinations, titers (testing), respirator clearance and DOT exams.  They often provide ongoing medical surveillance for everything from silica exposures to ergonomic workstation evaluations and training.

Some occupational medicine providers become Medical Review Officers (MRO) to consult, advise and manage work-related drug testing programs.  An MRO provides guidance to employers on non-negative and positive drug and alcohol testing results as well as related policies for Federal Motor Carriers, Federal Transit Authority, Federal Rail, Pipeline, Aviation, Coast Guard and other regulatory compliance agencies.

In partnership with workers/patients, employers, insurers, regulatory agencies and others, occupational medicine providers such as Minnesota Occupational Health seek to provide a balanced approach to prevention and care aimed at helping to maintain a safe, productive and healthy work environment.

About the author


Jim S.

Jim S. is the Business Development Manager for Minnesota Occupational Health, a Minnesota-based organization that promotes health and safety in the workplace.