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FSTAR Health Shares New Guide to Improve Firefighter Physicals

The Healthcare Provider’s Guide to Firefighter Physicals is coming soon to a fire department near you.

Although there are indications the environment is improving, there is still a significant gap in the provision of healthcare for firefighters. Some firefighters receive annual physicals through their fire departments; most do not. A survey conducted by the IAFC and FSTAR Health found that around 80% of firefighters have a personal, private healthcare provider and around 70% of those firefighters see their PCPs regularly.

These statistics illustrate a starting point for improving the healthcare delivery system for all firefighters in the United States. The IAFC; the Safety, Health and Survival Section; and FSTAR have joined forces with fire service experts, researchers and healthcare providers to build the Healthcare Provider’s Guide to Firefighter Physicals. The guide is designed to enhance and leverage the relationship between firefighters and their private, primary care providers (PCPs).

The job of firefighting is physically taxing, dangerous and stressful; the guide begins by explaining to healthcare providers who may be unfamiliar with the fire service the toll the job takes on firefighters. The Guide vividly describes the inherent exposures, hazards and physiological demands of firefighting that research shows leads to increased incidence rates of serious, potentially-devastating illnesses and injuries. The guide provides context for private PCPs when treating a firefighter.

PCPs spend on average about 15 minutes with each patient. The concise, validated guide enables providers to focus on the specific needs of their firefighter patients without requiring hours of time to research and understand the standards on their own.

The Guide isn’t meant to teach PCPs how to perform a physical examination; in fact, it relies on their experience and clinical judgment to understand the potential impacts on the health of firefighters due to the described occupational risks. The Guide specifically presents recommended testing and monitoring of firefighters based on published research and the collective experience of our healthcare provider panel.

The Guide also serves to educate and arm firefighters, enabling them to be their own best healthcare advocate. “We have data showing that a number of our firefighters are being cared for by private physicians. I encourage all firefighters to use this guide to advocate for your own health,” said Chief John Sinclair, IAFC president and chairman of the board. “I thank the FSTAR Health working group for their dedication and time to create this guide that will help ensure that those caring for us are well-educated and aware of the challenges we face every day.”

Look for more information about the Healthcare Provider’s Guide to Firefighter Physicals and how to get a copy of it for your department in an upcoming issue of On Scene.

FSTAR is funded by a FEMA AFG Fire Prevention and Safety Grant award. Visit FSTAResearch.org to learn more about FSTAR Health and to discover research-based resources on firefighter safety, health and wellness.

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