Medical career - doctor

Doctors are responsible for the diagnosis, care and treatment of illness and disease. They also have a role in protecting and improving people’s well-being.

The work of a doctor

A doctor may work in a variety of settings, such as in a hospital or as a family doctor (GP), in government or industry. Hospital doctors can go on to specialise in particular areas such as pathology, psychiatry and paediatrics, or various branches of surgery.

Learning to be a doctor involves a long and demanding course of study. It can take a minimum of 10 years to train as a general practitioner (GP) and at least 12 years before a doctor is suitably qualified to practise as a consultant.

Within the practice of medicine, there are over 60 different specialties. Your medical training will give you the opportunity to discover which appeals to you most.

Specialities

The specialities fall into the following groups:

Medical

This area covers most of the conditions for which people are admitted to hospital. Roles range from acute medicine to clinical genetics. Many specialties focus on particular organs such as the heart (cardiology) or disease processes such as cancers (oncology).

Surgical

Surgeons operate on particular parts of the body, or address specific injuries, diseases or degenerative conditions where operative treatment may be necessary.

General practice

GPs are the first point of contact with the health service for most people. They provide a complete range of care within the local community. They deal with problems that often combine physical, psychological and social elements. They increasingly work in teams with other professions, helping patients to take responsibility for their own health.

Paediatrics and child health

Paediatricians diagnose and provide treatment for babies, infants, children and adolescents who have medical problems. They are also experts in normal child growth, development and feeding.

Obstetrics and gynaecology

Obstetricians and gynaecologists give specialised medical treatment and advice related to the female reproductive system. Obstetrics involves caring for women during pregnancy, particularly if there are complications.

Pathology

Pathologists specialise in the detection of disease through the use of a variety of investigative techniques. Their work is vital in finding an accurate and timely diagnosis for patients, which increases the chance of treatment being successful.

Psychiatry

Psychiatrists specialise in mental ill health. This is a priority in today's health service, with new services being developed to support acute and community care.

Radiology

Radiologists specialise in the detection of disease through the use of different imaging techniques.

Anaesthetics

Anaesthetists are essential members of the surgical team. They are also involved in developing treatments to relieve chronic pain and offer intensive care support to very sick patients.

Ophthalmology

Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat disorders related to the eye, orbit and visual system.

Skills required

Medicine includes a wide range of people, working in very varied roles. Some personal qualities you may need for a career in medicine include:

  • a concern for people
  • an open and enquiring mind
  • an interest in people
  • a rational approach
  • imagination
  • ability to handle pressure
  • hard work
  • determination
  • decisiveness

Training programme

In the completion of the Queen’s University Belfast School of Medicine undergraduate full-time five-year programme, the degrees of MB BCh BAO are awarded where MB is Bachelor of Medicine, BCh is Bachelor of Surgery and BAO is Bachelor in the Art of Obstetrics.

For further information on the course and entry requirements, contact the university directly. Applications should be made through Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Career pathway

When you complete registration, you will need to do further postgraduate training in your chosen area of interest. The medical degree provides the basis for opportunities across the full range of medical practice.

Postgraduate training in Northern Ireland is overseen by the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA).

Professional recognition

Possession of the degree of MB BCh BAO entitles you to be provisionally registered with the General Medical Council. You can then apply for entry to a two-year Foundation Training Programme which will allow you to work and practise as a doctor in the UK.

On satisfactory completion of the Foundation Programme, you will then be eligible to enter specialist training in your chosen field of practice. This will take between three and eight years depending on your chosen area of practise.

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