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The Importance of 'Health, Work and Well Being' in the Medical School Curriculum
Last week I was pleased to attend a joint symposium hosted by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) and University College London (UCL).
The aim of the day was to discuss the importance of teaching occupational medicine in the undergraduate curriculum.
I think that there are two powerful reasons why occupational medicine should be more prominent in the undergraduate curriculum.
Firstly, too many young doctors qualify without being aware of one of the most clinically varied specialties in medicine. The breadth of careers available in occupational medicine is unparalleled.
Occupational physicians work across all sectors and locations, from healthcare to oil and gas; from Antarctica to Australia; and each day occupational physicians see a level of clinical variety that is unique to the specialty.
In addition to clinical variety, occupational physicians are also in a strong position to shape their own careers, with many positions available in the NHS, military and industry.
I was encouraged to hear an orthopaedic clinical fellow express his delight at the enthusiasm and energy of everyone he has encountered since exploring a career in occupational medicine. Another colleague recently described our specialty as ‘medicine’s best kept secret’. Although I don’t want occupational medicine to be a ‘secret’ specialty, we should be proud that our colleagues are so fulfilled by their careers.
The other reason why undergraduate medics would benefit from greater exposure to occupational medicine is that tomorrow’s doctors need to be aware of their own health and wellbeing and the impact it has on ability to deliver care; the Francis Report and other recent evidence (Point of Care Foundation Report) has demonstrated clearly that a healthy and engaged workforce provide better quality of care to patients.
Occupational medicine teaching will encourage students to consider their own health and how important it is to look after themselves as part of their duty of care.
With a health service under unprecedented strain, doctors are required to provide high-quality care with fewer resources; resilience is therefore a critical skill in order to thrive in a medical career.
It was encouraging that so many students from UCL entered the inaugural AXA PP Occupational Medicine essay competition. The winning entry, written by Mr Chon Lam described the use of mindfulness as a tool to build resilience at medical school.
There is no ‘right way’ to build resilience and ensure one’s own wellbeing, but increased exposure to occupational medicine should mean that doctors of the future are better equipped to face the challenges of a career in medicine.
For more information about occupational medicine, please visit the Faculty of Occupational Medicine’s website