How to be a company doctor

how to be a company doctor

If you’d like to know how to become a company doctor or an occupational health physician, then this is the perfect article for you.

In this article, Dr. Wessam Atif, who is an Occupational and Public Health Specialist will answer several comments and questions that you need to know on how to become an Occupational Health Physician, or a company/field doctor. He will also share his own personal experience that you may use as a guide and may help if you’re pursuing this career.

You can also watch this short video where Dr. Atif briefly explains the things you may need to know if you want to be an occupational health physician or company doctor. He will be discussing more helpful guides in the future so stay tuned!

Can any doctor become a company doctor?

I think yes. Not any doctor means that you don’t need any specialized training or any specialized course, but more like any doctor with any specialty or any background can easily become or adapt to be a company doctor. Let’s say you have a background as a GP or as an Orthopedician or as a surgeon then definitely you can do some training and become a company doctor.

What are the qualifications needed?

This is a very important thing if you would like to become a company doctor, you have to understand that you will always have to check and work with the legal requirements a lot, you need to check based on the country where you operate or work, you have to be very careful with this.

Do you require any specific training or course to be licensed as an occupational medicine physician? Or a company doctor or you can just apply right away?

Some areas or some countries may allow you to become the medic or become an occupational health nurse, but not a doctor. It depends on that. So yes, you may be a doctor but you’re not allowed to become or to be called a doctor in some countries, but you may be called a medic depending on the validity of your license.

The other thing is sometimes if you’re working on an international grounds or waters. Let’s say, you’re a physician on a cruise ship or on a ship that’s moving from one country to another, then this case you may be the doctor of this ship regardless of where the ship is because the laws and the regulations that apply to you are the laws and regulations of the country of origin of this specific ship so again the direct answer for the qualifications needed is you need to check with the legal requirements of the country where you are operating.

What is industrial hygiene? What’s the difference between industrial hygiene and occupational health?

In occupational health we’re focusing on the person, the worker, the worker’s health. For example, with noise, if you’re trying to check someone’s hearing ability or if they have any hearing loss and you do a hearing test (we call it audiometry) then this is an occupational health activity.

On the other hand, an industrial hygienist would be monitoring the environment means that you’d be having a noise meter and trying to check the noise levels in the workplace.

This doesn’t mean that you as a company doctor may not be required to do the same thing because you have to understand in real life you may have to do several roles like industrial hygiene, safety, occupational health, sometimes even admin or radio operator.

The best specialties/background for company doctor

Occupational health is an independent specialty but originally it used to be under Public Health.

Example, I would like to become a company doctor but I am a surgeon, or an orthopedician, or even a general practitioner, then yes you can. Those are very good backgrounds.

For example, you study a higher diploma in occupational medicine on top of your medical background and then you can very nicely and easily become an occupational health doctor.  

You have to understand that in real life, I’ve studied a lot of technical stuff under occupational medicine, that you rarely apply in a real life situation I mean you’re not working in a toxicology center, you’re working in a company or in a camp and you’re dealing with the daily activities. Yes, there may be some chemicals here or there you’ll have a list of them you need to know the toxicology of these chemicals and how to control them etc. But in the end, you’ll be dealing with the regular complaints every day or injuries which we’re going to discuss.

What are the types of contracts or the nature of working you know with companies? Do you work full time or the work part time doctor?

It depends. You can be a full-time doctor sometimes you can be a part-time doctor. It also depends on the location, you may even be deployed through different agencies. For example, some of my colleagues were sometimes working as part-time doctors. They visit a company once or twice a week just to do the paperwork, to check some of the employees or some of the legal complaints related to occupational health or compensation. They spend their hours there and then they go. This will also vary, let’s say you are full-time then that’s the problem because whom do you report to? Sometimes this is a conflict that you have to pay attention to because if you’re reporting to the manager of the site sometimes there’ll be a conflict of interest that you are not independent. There should be a way that the occupational health physician should report directly to the top management without being biased by or affected by the local management or the management of the team. So again, it depends where you work.

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