How I transitioned to Occupational Medicine

Are you looking for a career that affords an improved work-life balance? Most doctors are surprised when they hear that…

Are you looking for a career that affords an improved work-life balance? Most doctors are surprised when they hear that Occupational Medicine (OM) is a specialty of it’s own.

Historically, the availability of information and/or exposure to this career opportunity has been quite sparse, however this has changed in recent years. Most doctors enter the specialty after training or spending some time in another broad based specialty; most typically General Practice.

There’s a big unknown when moving over to a different specialty, therefore we briefly catch up with  Dr Clare Fernandes, author and Occupational Health Physician who moved into Occupational Medicine from GP training. Find out how she navigated through this process.

What were you doing before Occupational Medicine and what inspired you to become a medic?

Before Occupational Medicine I was a Radiologist and a GP Trainee. I chose the latter as broad based training to use as a platform to other work.

I put becoming a doctor on my bucket list when I was 13 (inspired by my dad who is a Consultant in Public Health) and therefore was determined to tick it off the list. I remember my dad always coming home inspired by his day, and full of positives for making the world a better place. I remember thinking that medicine seemed like such a noble profession. I still do, in fact.

How did you find out about Occupational Medicine and what elements of the specialty fits in the most around your interests?

By accident! I was talking to a through a friend of mine who is a Consultant in Occupational Medicine.

At the time I knew I didn’t want to work as a GP, (which I was using as a broad training base to decide which way my career should go), and she suggested that I shadowed her. What I liked from the start was the variety of the role – from traditional consultations, to policy work, to risk assessments. I get bored easily, and am not bored yet!

Whilst it is not a ‘sexy’ speciality for me, the main driver is that I feel that I am able to make bigger positive differences for individuals and subsequently on a larger scale.

I got my first job through a friend when I look a gap year.  I already had my diploma at this point so it was not difficult to get. The work was well paced, an interesting variety. My broad training was very useful in applying to this specialty and I found my colleagues very interesting as they all seemed to have taken tumultuous career turns as I felt I had!

The transition to Occupational Medicine has been immensely satisfying.

You’ve written a book on The Diploma in Occupational Medicine (DOccMed) – congratulations! Why did you write this and what was the experience like?

Thanks. I actually wrote the initial questions as I couldn’t find any past questions for the diploma in occupational medicine, so decided to create my own! The experience was rewarding but hard work – the constant revisions from the editor and rewriting was very time-consuming.

If you’re considering or planning to write a book, be confident, be prepared for hard work and enjoy seeing your name in print!

Start with a business plan. Think about the aims for the book, whom it will be aimed at, and why someone should take the time to publish it. Draft a sample page and send both to publishers. If they like it, they may take you up on it!

What advice do you have for doctors considering Occupational Medicine as a career?

For medical careers in general:

Don’t be afraid to get off the career escalator.

I was so scared to leave a sought after radiology training post because no-one I knew had done it, and everyone thought I was mad to do so.  It was totally worthwhile. For those interested in Occupational Medicine, try shadowing an Occupational Health Physician to get a taste of the variety of work, particularly in industry as it is so different from traditional medicine.

To find out more about Clare’s Diploma in Occupational Medicine book, check it out here on Amazon.

If you’re interested in a career in Occupational Medicine – members can access our latest OM webinar here

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Abeyna Bubbers-Jones

Abeyna is the Founder & Director of Medic Footprints and a Consultant Physician in Occupational Health