Completing the Pre-requisite Course for the Diploma in Occupational Health Practice – an Occupational Therapist’s perspective
By Mandy Kelly
Occupational Therapy and Occupational Health (OH) have a lot in common, and it is not just in the titles! I have worked in occupational health and vocational rehabilitation in Australia and the UK for over 25 years. Using my skills in assessing an individual’s function, assessing job demands and then using ergonomic solutions and rehabilitation techniques (particularly using work as a therapeutic tool) to bring about matches between function and demands has been extremely rewarding. The reward has been to help enable individuals to retain/gain a meaningful and purposeful role and educate and support employers to retain/gain valuable company assets and increase workforce health, productivity, and safety.
Although I have a long work history in occupational health, I have recently completed the Introductory Course to Occupational Medicine run by Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, one of the four FOM-approved pre-requisite courses to sit the Diploma in Occupational Health Practice examinations. I have appreciated the generosity and inclusiveness of Dr Elizabeth Murphy and Dr Kiera McDowall, the course directors, and their encouragement in opening the doors to this course to a wide variety of occupational health practitioners.
The focus of the course was clearly on learning and converting that learning into improved OH practice. As well as the knowledge provided by the specialist subject lecturers, I found that due to the mixed professional backgrounds of the participants in the NUTH course and our varied work experiences, the group-based discussions and small-group problem-solving sessions enhanced our clinical understanding and the embedding of learning. The one-to-one tutoring was a key part of the course and was extremely helpful not only for my portfolio development (a requirement for the examination) but also for discussing and gaining an understanding of broader OH issues, which have benefited my clinical and business practice.
Coming into the course from a career in OH focused on Functional Capacity Evaluations, ergonomics, mental health, neurodiversity assessment and rehabilitation provision, learning about various occupational diseases, their causation and OH’s role in their assessment and management has been a highlight for me. Throughout the course, we were always brought back to the fundamentals of risk assessment/management and the hierarchy of risk controls to inform our analysis and decision-making. The synergy and mutualism of occupational health and workplace health and safety has become even clearer for me. The days of the siloed approach between the two arms within an organisation will hopefully become outdated.
I was also fortunate enough to teach one of the course modules in vocational rehabilitation. As the course attendees had not worked with an occupational therapist in OH before, it enabled a greater understanding of the occupational therapy and vocational rehabilitation approach, our OT skills and knowledge and our potential impact on case resolution as part of a multi-disciplinary team.
Although occupational therapists have the skills to work in occupational health settings directly post-qualifying, with so much recent focus on OH multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary working and the need to grow the OH workforce, it makes sense for the introductory OH courses to be opened to a wide range of practitioners to be able to share knowledge, skills and perspectives, understand the breadth of occupational health and most importantly, to continue to improve OH practice.
The Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Trust Introductory course in Occupational Medicine is multi-professional.
Growing OH program-
an Occupational Nurse’s Perspective
By Lucy Ellis
Occupational Health is a growing field of specialist nursing and is a field I am relatively new to. I’m lucky to have supportive management who encourages individuals to excel in their field and develop their skills. Therefore, I was very eager to expand my knowledge base, so when the opportunity to do so through funding from Growing OH&WB was offered, I was thrilled. I accessed the Diploma in OH Practice via the Faculty of Medicine (FOM).
Prior to commencing the diploma, I was sent the course literature. My first thought on opening the box was, ‘Crikey, what have I got myself into?’ The folders were bulky and contained an extensive amount of information, but saying that, gave me everything I needed to prepare myself for the course. I obviously knew the course was going the be intense, because what other diploma can you complete in 2 weeks?
On the first day, I was slightly apprehensive, not knowing what to expect and worrying that I didn’t know anything about Occupational Health, but I was immediately put at ease by course leaders. The lecturers were engaging and supportive and provided us with a vast amount of information to reinforce the purpose of Occupational Health.
The course was easily accessible. Sat comfortably at home on my sofa, allowed me to absorb all the information at my own pace. For someone like me, who doesn’t like putting their hand up in a crowded lecture theatre o answer questions, it was perfect.
As much as I found the intensity of the course challenging, the knowledge I have taken away from it is quite extensive. We were provided with a vast reading list to underpin what we had learnt and to carry forward into our day-to-day work.
I can honestly say I have learned so much and was excited to return to work after the course and implement changes in our department and complete workplace assessments. Geeky, I know!
My own personal experience of Occupational Health Nursing is from working within my NHS trust; therefore, it was fantastic to gain awareness of the health needs of workers outside the NHS.
All I can say, for anyone who is given the opportunity to do this course, do it! My department and I have gained so much from it!
East Occupational Health Nurse Team LeaderLancashire Hospitals NHS Trust
Lucy completed the At Work Partnership Diploma which is generally undertaken over 2 intensive weeks. The course provides a solid introduction to OH practice and offers effective preparation for the FOM examinations. The diploma involves three examinations:
- an online multiple-choice question paper;
- a portfolio written assessment, made up of two parts: a workplace risk assessment and a clinical case seen and examined by the student
- an online oral (viva) examination based on your written portfolio