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Career coach - Occupational medicine

Dr Jim Sherifi gives advice on how GPs can participate in, and get the best out of, occupational medicine

Dr Jim Sherifi gives advice on how GPs can participate in, and get the best out of, occupational medicine

Occupational medicine (OM) provides an interesting addition to any portfolio medical career as well as being a full-time career in its own right.

• OM covers the interaction between health and work and how each impacts on the other.

• Specialist areas within OM include: travel medicine, disability assessment medicine, aviation medicine, diving medicine, sports and exercise medicine and radiation medicine.

• Specialist postgraduate degrees, diplomas and certificates are needed to work in the above areas.

• The Diploma in Occupational Medicine (DipOccMed) was designed to provide a level of minimal competence specifically for use by those not wishing to pursue a full-time career in the subject – such as GPs.

• Further specialist examinations leading to Associate or Membership of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (AFOM and MFOM) are required for full-time employment in occupational medicine.

• Occupational physicians are needed in a broad range of workplaces from NHS hospitals to factories and call centres.

• In developing an interest in OM, define the market in which you wish to work. Then look at what potential opportunities there are in your geographic area.

• You may need to develop the market. Many commercial companies are unaware of the need to comply with British and European health and safety directives. You will need to be conversant with them first before seeking to educate potential customers for your service.

• Contact the Employment Medical Advisory Service (EMAS), the medical branch of the HSE, who will also be able to advise you on any need in your area as well as placing your name on a list of providers.

• You will need excellent communication and diplomacy skills in managing difficult situations governed by the primacy of patient confidentiality versus the demands of the employer.

• OM is detail-driven, requiring observation skills as well as the meticulous recording essential when dealing with potential legal implications.

• An essential website for any research into this area is that of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (see below).

• Another highly useful introductory resource is the Health and Work Handbook, which can be downloaded free from the Society of Occupational Medicine (see below).

Dr Jim Sherifi is a GP in Sudbury, Suffolk

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