Occupational Medicine (OM) is a clinical specialty in which one can encounter almost any medical condition. OM is strongly involved in current national and international agenda on work, particularly including helping those who currently do not work to do so as highlighted in Dame Carol Black’s report. It provides opportunities to prevent or remedy illnesses and identify their causes in the workplace, as well as to improve health by influencing those factors and taking a holistic approach to working people’s health. There is also closer involvement in patients’ lives (than in other specialties) through what they do at work and the ability to visit fascinating workplaces e.g. motor racing car or aircraft manufacture. In some cases, opportunities to travel overseas exist. OM practitioners make routine use of their ability to communicate with many individuals e.g. managers, HR professionals, Health and Safety officers, Trade Union representatives, Disability and Employment specialists and groups of workers as well as other health professionals, both face to face and in writing.
Other activities include health promotion, teaching, policy creation, committee work, audit and involvement in commercial activities such as bids, tenders and presentations. There are generally no on-call or weekend duties; OM can be ‘family friendly’ with opportunities to train less than full time. OM doctors exploit their ability to move through various jobs and to be self-employed if they choose, thus creating considerable opportunities for variety and subspecialisation. There are a number of special interest groups and associations.
Training follows the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM)’s very broad curriculum including not just clinical medicine and investigation of ill health, but also disability, employment law, health and safety legislation, epidemiology, toxicology, occupational hygiene, travel medicine and research. In the UK, specialist training in occupational medicine (OM) lasts for 4 years if undertaken full time. Programmes begin at ST3. There is thus a need to have undertaken at least two years in Core training, but this can be in any recognised specialty. No postgraduate diplomas are required to enter training, but there is a requirement to have demonstrated competencies in the field or fields of Core training which have been undertaken. OM Specialty Training (and OM practice) takes place in:
- Industry (various organisations including public and private sector)
- Armed Forces
There is a requirement to pass Parts 1 and 2 of the examination for membership of the FOM (MFOM), Part 1 normally in ST3 and Part 2 in ST5 or ST6. Specialty training in Occupational Medicine also includes a requirement to demonstrate capabilities in research, but there are various options for doing so, which can include previous published work on a medical topic, a dissertation and various others.
Anyone interested in OM training can obtain useful information from the FOM website. Alternatively, they can contact the TPD (Dr Jon Spiro) or local OM Consultants. In addition, the trainee group welcomes those considering OM training on its visits.