Occupational Medicine is a clinical medical specialty that deals with the interface between work and health. It is a small but long established specialty, both in Ireland and internationally.
Occupational physicians need to have a broad knowledge of clinical medicine. Typically, entrants to specialist training have already gained qualifications in General Internal Medicine, General Practice or another clinical field. They also need additional knowledge of basic science (e.g. noise exposure and effects on hearing, radiation exposure effects, toxicology), along with an awareness of legal issues pertaining to workplace safety and employment equality. A good understanding of how business works and what constitutes good management is essential. Occupational Medicine also has various subspecialties, such as Diving Medicine or Aviation Medicine.
Typically, medical students or doctors in postgraduate training come into contact with the occupational health department in the context of sharps injuries or hepatitis B immunization in a hospital setting. In fact, this is just one small area of the specialty. Occupational Medicine involves preventative programmes such as immunizations, health surveillance (e.g. audiology for noise exposure), rehabilitation of workers with an illness or disability, and advising organizations (governmental and business) on how to best optimize the health of their most important asset, their employees.
Occupational Physicians need to know how to “get to the bottom” of sometimes complex cases or issues. They must give decisive medical advice and be prepared to explain this medical advice to both the employee and the employer, while respecting confidentiality when dealing with the latter.
Specialist training in Occupational Medicine can be completed in Ireland on the Faculty of Occupational Medicine’s Higher Specialist Training programme. Career prospects are good, with specialists gaining employment in the public sector or the private sector. The lack of ‘on-call’ commitment facilitates a healthy work-life balance.
Training Pathway for Occupational Medicine
|Step 1||Step 2||Step 3||Step 4|
|Training Level||Medical School||Intern Year||Basic Specialty Training in Medicine*||Higher Specialist Training in Occupational Medicine|
|Duration||4-6 years||1 year||2 years||4 years|
|Entry Process||Graduate or direct entry||Entry through the HSE Intern Match||Entry based on competitive interview||Entry based on competitive interview|
|Mandatory Examinations||As per curriculum||N/A||MRCPI||LFOM MFOM|
|Application Date||CAO process opens in November||Application process opens in October||Application process opens in December||Application process open in November|
|Programme Operated by:||Undergraduate Universities||Intern Networks||RCPI||RCPI|
* An alternative pathway is the completion of the accredited General Practice training programme and then entry into the Higher Specialist Training programme in Occupational Medicine.
The Higher Specialist Training Programme in Occupational Medicine is run by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, Royal College of Physcians of Ireland.