Performing DOT physicals was a big part of my job when I worked in urgent care. Yes, I used to do hernia checks on overweight middle aged men all day long. Back in those days, any NP or MD could perform a DOT physical- no hoops to jump through or special certifications required. It was the like the Wild West of the commercial driver’s exam. Maybe I will check for hernias today, maybe I won’t… Simply perform the physical, fill out the form and send the patient on their way. But, things have gotten a bit more complicated when it comes to DOT physicals this year.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that commercial truck drivers and bus drivers undergo periodic physical exam to make sure they are physically capable of safety behind the wheel. These physical exams, known affectionately by medical providers as “DOT physicals” could once be performed by any licensed physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. New regulations from the National Transportation Safety Board, however, require that medical providers obtain special certification to vouch for driver’s health on the road.

As of May, 2014, new rules state that in order to issue a DOT medical certificate, the medical provider must be authorized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as well as pass a certification exam. Providers must re-certify every 10 years and complete a refresher course every five years. The National Transportation Safety Board hopes these stricter guidelines and certification process will help standardize DOT physicals keeping drivers safer behind the wheel.

As a nurse practitioner, in many settings getting certified to perform DOT physicals is necessary. Many urgent and primary care clinics offer this service to patients so NPs working at these clinics must get certified. How do you get approved?

Think of the DOT Medical Examiner Training similarly to how you think about getting your BLS certification. You will need to attend a course (which can be done online), usually offered by a company other than your employer. These companies can be found through a simple internet search. Once you complete the course material, you will take a certification test. Courses cost between $300 to $500. Fortunately, most employers asking that you get DOT certified will cover this expense. Some medical examiner training companies even offer approved continuing education credits for taking their courses. Courses typically require completion of about 10 to 15 hours worth of online materials.

Provided you pass the test at the end of your course, you will receive a certificate indicating your completion either by mail, online, or both. Then, you may register with the U.S. Department of Transportation through the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners website.

Getting your DOT certification can be a big plus for your practice. The U.S. Department of Transportation maintains a list of Certified Medical Examiners so drivers can locate a convenient medical provider when they are due for a physical. Performing DOT physicals can help drive new business to your practice and provide an added revenue opportunity in itself.

Are you certified to perform DOT physicals? Are DOT physicals important to your practice?


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