Working On The Frontline – Doctors

Working On The Frontline - Doctors

We take a look at working on the front line in Ireland during the COVID-19 Outbreak

This week we continue our focus on the careers of those working on the front line in Ireland due to the COVID-19 Outbreak. We look at what working as a medical doctor on the frontline involves and how a career like this can really make a difference in your community.

Doctors in Ireland have undoubtedly one of the most crucial positions on the frontline. They are one of the many health professionals who are working in some of the most high-risk environments in terms of infection as they gamble with their own health in order to help the fight against the spread of this virus.

The complexity of the COVID-19 disease means that specialist doctors across a number of medical disciplines are likely to come under increasing pressure.

It is important to remember that while trying to treat and subdue the COVID-19 virus, the regular health system must be upheld, and doctors must still be on call to work in their respective fields with cancer patients, urgent surgeries and acute cardiac problems, for example.

General Practitioners (GPs) and Accident and Emergency (A&E) are also vital services which doctors are central to.

To support doctors and healthcare workers, significant measures have been taken. One of which witnessed just under 1,300 final year Medicine students fast-tracked into full-time roles in order to combat the virus.

Students in NUI Galway and in RCSI voted unanimously on measures such as completing their exams at and earlier date in order to be fully available to answer the call. The change of exams has also cleared the way for a large number of academic clinicians to provide their services to the HSE.

In addition to this, many international students who have been attracted to Irish medical courses have stayed in Ireland to play their part in the fight against the burden Coronavirus is placing on the national health service.

The HSE’s recent recruitment drive has attracted over 50,000 applicants many of whom are either recently retired doctors or those willing to come back from working abroad to lend their support.

See recent story: Another welcome boost to the sector will be through the HSE’s recent recruitment drive which has attracted over 50,000 applications from healthcare workers.

Careers in Medicine

Some of the key qualities doctors need to have include empathy, curiosity and they should be personable as well as great listeners. But to even get in to a college to study medicine, they also need to be highly motivated and prepared for an enormous amount of hard work.

Most medical doctors start their careers as ‘Junior Doctors’ and many decide to specialise in a particular area, which requires further training.

Doctors can operate in many different specialities and some of the most prevalent careers include:

  • General Practitioner – Specialises in examining, treating and advising people in a local or hospital setting
  • Anaesthetist – Specialises in preventing patients from feeling pain during medical procedures
  • Pathologist – Examines and studies the cause and effects of diseases and illnesses
  • Epidemiologist – Studies disease patterns with the aim to reduce public health risks
  • Haematologist – Studies blood types, formations and blood forming tissues to identify problems in blood cells
  • Oncologist – Specialises on working with cancer patients
  • Psychiatrist – Works with those with psychological illnesses and disorders

Specialist doctors are typically referred to as consultants, which means that they have several years of specialist training completed after their initial medical studies.

Although many medical doctors work in hospitals or local clinics, some pursue a career in medical research or teaching.

Becoming a Doctor

It takes four to six years of university education and training to become a medical doctor, following which, the newly-qualified doctor spends one year as an intern or ‘house officer’ in a teaching hospital. During the internship the junior doctor gets to experience a variety of medical and surgical specialties and usually enters a specialised training scheme in the area he/she wants to specialise in.

Minimum entry requirements for Medicine courses in Ireland require a points total made up from Leaving Cert grades and CAO points alongside the candidate’s score in the Health Professional Admission Test (HPAT).

The HPAT is an aptitude test which covers Logic, Problem Solving, Interpersonal Understanding and Non-Verbal Reasoning. The maximum score in the HPAT is 300 points. The test usually takes place during the month of February.

CAO Points are normally a minimum of 480 and at least one science subject. This varies depending on the college. Some will require a minimum of two science based subjects while some will also require a third language subject to be eligible.

Overall points requirements for these courses ranged from 726 – 735 points in 2019.

There are six universities in Ireland that offer medicine courses:

  • Trinity College Dublin
  • University College Dublin – Graduate Entry Also Available
  • Royal College of Surgeons Ireland – Graduate Entry Also Available
  • University College Cork – Graduate Entry Also Available
  • NUI Galway
  • University of Limerick – Graduate Entry Only

Although travelling to other countries is not appropriate in the immediate future, Studying medicine abroad is a popular option for Irish students.

Some may think that it’s only an option for Irish students who can’t get in to Irish colleges, but that is no longer the case. Most of the highest ranking colleges in medicine are in the US and UK and there are now many countries offering medical studies through English even where it is not the official language. Poland and Hungary have been popular for some time, and Italy and the Netherlands are increasing in popularity in recent years, not least due to their low fees.

One key thing to remember is that the medical professions are regulated, so if you do your training abroad, you need to make sure that the qualification is recognised by an Irish authority before you can practice in Ireland.