skip to Main Content
What Is Occupational Medicine?

What is Occupational Medicine?

Occupational medicine (also known as “occupational health”) is focused on the treatment of work-related injuries and illnesses. Physicians trained in occupational medicine, diagnose, and treat work-related injuries, stay up to date on federal and state regulations for workforce health and safety, provide treatment plans, and perform regulatory examinations.

They work closely with organizations such as, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and state agencies such as the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) in Washington. They also work directly with employers to keep employees safe and healthy on the job.

What is an Occupational Physician?

Occupational Physicians are highly trained specialists who provide a wide range of services relating to the health of workers and employers, and focus on the inter-relationships between workers, their workplaces, and their work practices. They also understand the state laws that govern workers compensation where they practice, which means they are in the best position to help injured workers navigate the workers compensation system where they live.

According to the American Medical Association, it is, “the medical specialty devoted to the prevention and management of occupational and environmental injury, illness and disability, and promotion of health and productivity of workers, their families and communities.”

Doctors practicing occupational medicine are trained and educated to diagnose and treat various sicknesses or injuries by studying the patient’s medical history, working environment and the conditions in which the patient is employed. By looking at these factors, the physician can diagnose and treat any illnesses or injuries that have occurred as a result of working conditions. If a patient must be removed from the workplace, the occupational health specialist will treat the patient and determine whether the patient is fit to return to work.

In Washington state, the Department of Labor and Industries has acknowledged several provider types who specialize in treating injured workers, but who may not be exclusively trained in Occupational Medicine. These disciplines, who are deemed qualified to help injured workers include:

  • MD’s (Medical Doctors)
  • DO’s (Doctors of Osteopathy)
  • ND’s (Naturopathic Physicians)
  • DC’s (Doctors of Chiropractic)
  • ARNP’s (Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners)
  • PA-C’s (Certified Physicians Assistants)
  • DPM (Podiatrists)
  • DDS (Dentists)

What do Occupational Physicians Treat?

Today, the complexity and pervasiveness of modern industry provides occupational physicians the opportunity to address worksite as well as environmental concerns, as well as community health and policy issues.

When treating for injuries or illnesses that are a result of, or exacerbated by, a patient’s working conditions, occupational physicians will perform a physical examination, and in some cases will visit or work with other providers to arrange for a visit to the patient’s workplace. When considering the workplace, the physician will make note of any possible contributing factors or other hazards that may be negatively affecting the patient.

After analyzing the patient’s condition, workplace and medical history, the physician may make a diagnosis or begin treatment. Each treatment plan will be specific to the needs and situation of the patient and will be highly personalized. For example, a patient who fractured their ankle on the job may be placed in a cast before the begin working with a rehabilitation specialist; if the injury was a result of a hazard of the workplace, the physician may offer suggestions on how to better mitigate future injuries that may result from that specific hazard. For clients with injuries that prevent a return to their job of injury, the physician will help direct vocational rehabilitation in addition to physical/psychological rehabilitation.

The health of the US workforce is central to the nation’s overall prosperity and stability. More than 130 million Americans spend most of their day either at the workplace or connected to it.

As the workplace has evolved and changed, employers increasingly make the connection between good health and the overall success of their enterprise.

Occupational Rehabilitation Programs at NWRTW

When a person is injured at work, they may find themselves unable to perform certain daily activities or job duties as they were once able to. Occupational and Physical therapists specializing in occupational rehabilitation assist in restoring and maximizing these functional capacities, utilizing activity analysis to identify barriers to participating in job-related tasks.

The goal of our Occupational Rehabilitation programs is to assist clients in maximizing their functional capacities, enabling them to participate as fully as possible in valued occupations and required job tasks. This is done through providing physical rehabilitation that often includes identifying adaptive strategies, utilizing adaptive equipment when appropriate, and training clients in safe movement patterns to ensure injury prevention during functional activities.

If you have been injured at work and are looking for programs to help you get back to work, contact Northwest Return to Work in Lynnwood, WA. Getting you back to work is what we do!

How to Learn More!

If you are still recovering from an injury and believe learning safe body mechanics will get you back to work, please contact us at Northwest Return to Work in Lynnwood, WA, Washington’s premiere rehabilitation center for work injury. If you’ve been injured at work and need more information, begin with Labor and Industries, and start the process, you can find more information HERE.

Contact Us to schedule an appointment or make a referral.


Josh Cobbley, OT

CEO, Northwest Return to Work

Back To Top