Charting Nursing's Future

Helping Truckers Keep on Trucking

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires all truck drivers to undergo a DOT physical at least every 24 months. In 2012, after a series of high-profile accidents, DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration started requiring that clinicians be nationally certified. That new certification test was opened to “any licensed healthcare provider licensed by the state to perform physical examinations,” including nurse practitioners (NPs), and other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

NPs stepped up in large numbers. Since the final rule went into effect in 2014, NPs and other APRNs have accounted for roughly a third of DOT-certified medical examiners. They see the exam as a starting point for working with truckers to actively improve their health.

Roughly 70 percent of truckers are obese. Half of truckers smoke, and the rate of diabetes in truckers is twice that of the general population. Hypertension, high cholesterol and sleep apnea commonly affect truckers, whose itinerant lifestyle also increases their risk of loneliness, depression and anxiety.

Good primary care can help people with these chronic conditions reduce their chances of experiencing a life-altering heart attack, stroke or accident. But because truck drivers are on the road all the time, keeping appointments can be a challenge.

Enter UrgentCareTravel, which opened its first clinic at a Pilot Flying J Travel Center four years ago. The clinics, staffed by nurse practitioners (NPs), are an innovative attempt to provide health care to an important and largely underserved population.

“Truckers may not be seeing their primary care providers because it’s inconvenient,” says Kate Heidorn NP-C, chief nursing officer for UrgentCareTravel, the Medical Clinic Network at Pilot Flying J. “We don’t want their health to be a problem because of the inconvenience of finding a place to park their truck.”

Truckers appreciate the effort. The pairing of NP-staffed medical clinics and truck stops has been so well received that by the end of 2017, seven UrgentCareTravel clinics were open at Pilot Flying J locations. By early 2019, the number will increase to 25. Type your paragraph here.

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