Friday, May 11, 2007

Die Betriebsarztin

The Betriebsarzt is the German equivalent of occupational health in the US. Here I will describe my first appointment with the Betriebsarzt, as well as my first appointment with occupational health at my last US job.

Occ Health in the US:
Meet nurse in an office. Show proof of all necessary vaccinations and most recent tuberculosis test (it was a hospital). Express whether I want a Hepatitis B vaccine or not. I pass because I don't work with blood. Say I don't work with radioactivity. Go back to work.

Betriebsarzt in Germany:
Meet doctor in an exam room. Fill out a four-page medical history, including crap like menarche. Go over entire medical history with doctor, page-by-page. Tell her I'm vaccinated to "the usual things" - no proof needed. Say I don't work with radioactivity. She asks me why I am turning red. I say I don't even notice that anymore because it's some sympathetic nervous system thing over which I have no control, but it happens any time I am the center of attention. Not really all that unusual, right? It's awkward and I'm really annoyed this was brought up. Then she takes my height, weight, blood pressure, and checks my throat, heart, lungs, and spine. And NOW I can go, because "I don't work very much". Jeez, what more would there have been if I did work there full-time? Blood tests? Crotch check? I'm rather mystified as to why my employer needs me to do this.


  1. The company doctor thing is not unique to Germany. I had to do the same thing in Canada every year when I hired back on with the same company for a summer job.

  2. I had an EKG when I started working for the Department of Energy. I also had to submit a urine sample. (The blood test goes without saying.) I assume it all goes into the big file the government has on me.

  3. Sara: Yeah, but I got to use the word "crotch".

    Ian: So, you know why this is done, then?

    Mary: Ok, the urine test I understand, but the EKG...?

  4. hi cn,
    sure - they want to be sure that you don't have any signs of a long-term ailment, ie that you'll either be calling in sick all the time or worse. It's a pain, but I can see their point.

  5. When I went to work full time in Germany I had to do all that and get a very extensive eye test - just in case I might later want to claim that working on a computer there had damaged my eyes (I asked).

  6. Ian, if you do have something and it's not treatable, or you will still miss work even with treatment, can you be fired?

    Christina - the eye test makes sense! I wonder if they only didn't do that because I said I only work part time. They could have done a wrist check, desk isn't ergonomic at all, they could have checked that...


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