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New Ulm Medical Center

New Ulm providers prepare for tougher DOT rules on physicals

New health regulations starting next year from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will change the way some health care facilities perform driver physicals.

Safe driving is important for everybody, especially for truck and bus drivers. To make sure they’re fit enough for those long trips, drivers must have a DOT physical every one to two years.

Beginning in May 2014, health care workers who perform these physicals must undergo special training, testing and certification to show they know what is required to safely operate a vehicle. Providers who are certified will have their names listed in a national registry.

Under the new regulations, drivers must have their DOT exams performed by a provider on the registry, said Chris Lawrenz, coordinator of Occupational Health Services for New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC). Previously, there was more flexibility regarding who could perform the DOT exams.

With the special training and certification, the government believes it can prevent more than 1,200 crashes a year in which the main cause is the health or physical condition of the driver, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Seven healthcare workers at NUMC have obtained the necessary training to follow the new DOT mandate, Lawrenz said. They are Charles W. Stephens, MD; Stephen M. Gilles, MD; Terry J. Knowles, MD; Annette L. Haynes, NP; Jody Enter, NP; Jodi Buche, NP, and Michelle Owens, NP.

Preparing for a DOT exam

Drivers who must get a regular DOT physical should bring their driver’s licenses to the appointment, said Stephens, a family medicine practitioner at NUMC. They should also be prepared to complete a urine test so doctors can check for blood, protein and glucose. That is the only lab test required with the DOT exam.

The care providers will conduct a head-to-toe physical exam. They will also do a brief vision test, checking for a distance vision of 20/40 in both eyes. If drivers do not meet that requirement, they must follow up with an eye doctor.

The provider also will perform a simple hearing check.

“We do the whisper test,” said Dr. Stephens. “If we’re five feet away, the driver needs to hear the whisper. If they don’t, they need an audiogram.”

Those coming for a DOT exam will fill out a medical history form to indicate any illnesses or health diagnoses in the past five years. This is important because certain diagnoses, such as diabetes or sleep apnea, may require more frequent monitoring, said Stephens.

Drivers should also bring to their exam any medications they currently take, any glasses or contact lenses that they use and any specialty health machines such as a CPAP for sleep apnea.

Stephens said that sometimes drivers think obesity will disqualify them from driving. It does not, but conditions sometimes associated with obesity, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, may make it harder for drivers to pass the exam, he said.

To schedule your DOT physical appointment, call 507-217-5011.