Objective: To characterize education, practice, and skills of occupational physicians and to evaluate subgroups within the profession.
Methods: The data for the baseline surveys of the occupational medicine practice research project were collected for a national sample of occupational physicians using paper or on-line instruments. Three subgroups were defined a priori-injury care, clinical specialist, and management/population.
Results: Occupational medicine seems to include three distinct subgroups, which differ in characteristics such as patient volume, relevant clinical skills, and income source. Nevertheless, many commonalities were present across all three groups, such as emphasis on communication, OSHA, and workers compensation. Musculoskeletal and workers compensation care were most important, although there were highly significant differences among the three subgroups.
Conclusions: Planning for education, certification, and organization of services should acknowledge the distinctions among the three subgroups.