Careers in occupational health
Dr Michael Lambert – a GP who has trained in occupational medicine – advises on why it is worth considering as a career
Occupational medicine is a fascinating, multidisciplinary, wide-ranging speciality covering health and safety and employment law, public health, disability and work-related disease – making it an ideal choice for GPs looking for a new skill set and an additional income stream. It also lends itself particularly well to sessional work.
The increasing complexity of occupational medicine – especially the legislative aspects – means additional training is a must. The RCGP's faculty of occupational medicine provides high standards of training and also publishes guidance, for example, on ethics and confidentiality. Its website provides information on training and academic qualifications and is a good first source of information for GPs interested in opportunities within occupational medicine.1
For most GPs, the diploma exam (DOccMed) would be sufficient. For entrance to the exam you need proof of satisfactory completion of a recognised course. There are three courses geared towards GPs looking to do sessional work in occupational medicine, all priced at around £2,000:
- The Royal Society for Public Health in London offers a concentrated, two-week course.2
- The University of Birmingham offers a course divided into two one-week modules.3
- The Centre of Occupational and Environmental Health at Manchester University offers a six-month distance learning course.4
The advanced diploma course covers the subject in more detail and is ideal for GPs keen on further training. Beyond this, there is the opportunity of doing a two-year MSc followed by becoming a member of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, which is normally achieved by entering approved specialty training.
Opportunities and benefits
There is little doubt that the opportunities for GPs in occupational medicine will increase as the needs of organisations change. Though the heavy manufacturing base of the UK has diminished, there has been a steady growth in small and medium-sized businesses that need advice on occupational health, including sickness absence, rehabilitation to work, workplace adaptations and disability, which is now covered by the Equality Act.
Training in occupational medicine can also benefit our daily practice – particularly in musculoskeletal problems and stress-related disorders – by helping our patients return to work earlier.
Many practices have developed sophisticated occupational medicine services, set up limited companies employed trained nurses, and now have a strong business model to add to the practice portfolio. In our practice we are looking to expand our services to our local university. Another benefit of occupational medicine training has been the improvement in our own health and safety procedures, which now feel more robust.
Occupational medicine could be a fascinating adjunct to a GP's or practice's portfolio, and I would encourage anyone to look seriously at this as a career opportunity.
Dr Michael Lambert is a GP trained in occupational medicine in Winchester
1 The Faculty of Occupational Medicine. facoccmed.ac.uk (accessed 20 April 2012)
2 Royal Society for Public Health. rsph.org.uk (accessed
20 April 2012)
3 University of Birmingham. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. birmingham.ac.uk/schools/haps/departments/ioem (accessed 20 April 2012)
4 The University of Manchester. Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health. medicine.manchester.ac.uk/oeh (accessed 20 April 2012)
The Society of Occupational Medicine. som.org.uk (accessed 20 April 2012)
The Faculty of Occupational Medicine sets standards for specialists and supports GPs who are working part-time in occupational medicine or have an interest in work and health as it affects their patients. The diploma in occupational medicine, taken by many GPs, covers the effects of work on health, assessment of fitness for work, health surveillance, rehabilitation, workplace visits, ethics and the law. For further details on the diploma, other training and careers, and for more information on occupational medicine for GPs, visit www.fom.ac.uk/education/education-for-gps