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Faculty of Occupational Medicine

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Faculty of occupational medicineFaculty of Occupational Medicine

The Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) was established over thirty years ago, to develop and maintain high standards of training and professional integrity in the specialty of occupational medicine. It sets exams, supervises training and supports physicians in their continued professional development. The Faculty also acts as an authoritative body for consultation in matters of education and public interest concerning occupational medicine.

This article aims to highlight the role and varied career opportunities for an occupational physician and how the Faculty supports its trainees through the training process.

What is Occupational Medicine?

Occupational Medicine is the medical specialty which covers the multi-faceted relationship between health and work.

It is concerned with ensuring that workplaces and work practices are safe and not detrimental to employees’ health, and that employees are fit for the job they are doing. If there are problems, either with the workplace or with an employee’s fitness, the occupational physician’s role is to advise on adjustments to the workplace, and/or to give appropriate advice and support to the employee.

Occupational medicine also has an important role to play in rehabilitating employees back into work, after sickness and injury and advises third parties, such as insurers and pension companies about retirement on grounds of ill health, for example. 

What are the career opportunities for an Occupational Physician?

Occupational physicians have a multitude of options for how they can develop their careers and make a difference to the lives of the working age population.

The variety of job possibilities include areas such as travel medicine, disability assessment medicine, aviation medicine, occupational dermatology, respiratory medicine, sports and exercise medicine, radiation medicine and diving medicine.

Naturally, many of the largest organisations, in both manufacturing and service industries have their own-in house occupational health services, as do universities and other public bodies, such as the fire-service and the police. Many medium-sized organisations make use of commercial providers of occupational health services, or employ part-time occupational physicians.

So there are also jobs for occupational physicians employed by commercial providers; there are many providers, large and small, which operate throughout the UK. Doctors working for multinational companies often travel abroad and can work in unusual and challenging environments.

Occupational medicine is an important specialty within all three armed services. Clearly, because armed forces operate in such an arduous physical and psychological environment, occupational health of all personnel is of paramount importance to maintain the service's fighting ability.

The NHS, increasingly acknowledges the occupational health aspects of its own workforce and also the value of keeping it healthy. A proportion of our members of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, therefore work in the NHS.

An advantage of Occupational Medicine is that practice differs greatly from one sector to another and it therefore can provide a varied career, with movement across sectors being very common.

Training in Occupational Medicine  

  • Resources for Medical Schools and Medical Students:

The Faculty hosts on their website a series of easily accessible and flexible teaching resources in occupational health to medical schools. The aim is to ensure that all medical graduates, whichever specialty they pursue, carry forward into their career a general awareness of the health and work issues which will undoubtedly affect a significant proportion of their patients. You can view the material on the FOM website.  

  •  Specialist Training:

Entry into post-graduate medical training in Occupational Medicine follows a similar pattern to other clinical specialties. Specialty Registrar candidates (STRs) need a minimum entry criteria of two years post registration. In years ST1 and ST2, you must complete core training in medicine, in an appropriate specialty, such as, surgery, psychiatry, public health or general practice.

You then have to apply for a GMC approved training post, these are available in the NHS, private sector and armed forces. The training takes a maximum of four years, during which time you’ll be annually assessed, to check you’ve gained the necessary competencies to progress to the next year.

During the training programme, the Faculty provides support and advice to trainees, through a number of ways; these include via its network of regional specialty advisors and Faculty staff and officers, tailored training days and regular specialty specific updates.

In addition to fulfilling the requirements of the training programme, you’ll be asked to write a dissertation. This takes the form of a research project, relating to an aspect of occupational medicine. There will be an exit examination at the end of the training course. Upon completion, you would receive a certificate of completion of specialist training (CCT) and you’ll then be invited to apply to the GMC for inclusion onto the specialist register. You would also gain the qualification; Member of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (MFOM). You can learn more about the specialist training programme at the FOM website.

  • Diploma in Occupational Medicine:  

You may have already decided to pursue a career, in another specialty. Many GPs, for instance find themselves being the first point of contact for occupational health related problems. We therefore also provide a Diploma in Occupational Medicine, which is a generalist qualification, aimed at the part-time practitioner. There is a strong take-up of this qualification by GPs. Further details about the diploma are available on the FOM website.

Case study -  ‘Why I became an Occupational Physician?’

Finally, we have aimed to highlight the variations and vast opportunities which go with being an occupational physician. A FOM Member has outlined why she finds her career rewarding and interesting:

 “I had my first contact with Occupational Medicine as a medical student in the 1980s, during my last year of medical training in Cluj Napoca, Romania. I was working in a Hospital for occupational diseases in one of the largest mining areas of the country. I became aware how significant work and other social factors could be as determinants of people’s health.”

A short spell studying and working at the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh was professionally and personally life-changing for me and I decided to settle in the UK.

I have never regretted my career choice and now after 16 years of specialist occupational health practice, I still find work interesting and rewarding. I enjoy the variety of medical and non-medical aspects of a specialty that has to keep abreast of advances, not only within a broad field of medical practice, but also in subjects such as ergonomics, toxicology, employment and the law.”

For further information about the specialty, visit the website of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine or call on 020 3116 6900.

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