Ireland has a long history in the field of medicine and healthcare. The School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin celebrated its tercentenary in 2011, placing it among the oldest medical schools in Europe, and the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) was founded here in the 18th Century.
Modern-day Ireland has become a global centre for clinical research, with research centres based in several of our large Dublin teaching hospitals - St. Vincent's Hospital, St. James's Hospital, The Mater Misercordiae Hospital and Beaumont Hospital - all are top clinical research centres.
The Medical Devices Sector has also grown to become a signicant industry sector in Ireland. Medical devices covers a wide range of products, from simple bandages, wheelchairs, contact lenses to the most sophisticated life-supporting products. The sector plays a crucial role in the diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, and treatment of diseases and the improvement of the quality of life of people suffering from disabilities. There is also much collaboration with the closely related Chemical, Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences Sector.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is the organisation responsibile for delivering health and social services to people in the Republic of Ireland. The HSE manages the delivery of the entire health service as a single national entity, employing in the region of 120,000 staff.
[Detailed infomation from our Sector Expert is available through the HSE link at the top right of this page]
The Irish healthcare system is a mixture of universal public health services and a fee based private system. There are 47 acute public hospitals, 19 private hospitals and 22 voluntary hospitals across the country.
The Private Healthcare industry has exploded in Ireland in recent years, with a number of large private hospitals opening their doors and more due to open in the future.
In Public Healthcare, here is currently a move towards a Primary Care model of provision, where a Primary Care Team is assembled, which includes: nurses, midwives; doctors, and allied health care staff, all working together in Primary Care Centres in the community. Public Health Nurses and Midwives have an important role play in the Primary Care team.
[Full details of the system are available on www.citizensinformation.ie]
Success in promoting good health and extending the life expectancy of people in Ireland to above the EU average is largly due to the highly trained and dedicated medical professionals working in our hospitals and healthcare centres.
There are many disciplines involved in managing patients in the healthcare sector. Doctors, nurses, dentists, dietitians, pharmacists, physiotherapists, medical lab technicians, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists - all are key medical professionals who have chosen to work in the Medical and Healthcare Sector.
The sector can be divided into 5 main career areas:
- Medical diagnostics
- Allied Health Professionals
All positions within the health sector have minimum qualifications attached to them and certain professions and therapies require that you study and qualify in that particular area. Doctors, Dentists, Nurses, Opticians and Pharmacists are subject to statutory registration in Ireland.
Below is an outline of the main occupations in the Medical and Healthcare Sector.
[Explore occupations in detail via Sample Occupations on the left of this page.]
Nursing covers a range of general and specialist areas including: General Nurse; Public Health Nurse; Midwife; Children's Nurse; Psychiatric Nurse; Practice Nurse; Theatre Nurse; Nurse Manager; Agency Nurse, Palliative Care Nurse . New roles for nurses are emerging all the time such as Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Prescriber.
There are opportunities for Nurses to work all over the world, and in wide variety of settings, as well as in hospitals. They may find careers in areas as diverse as: The World Health Organisation; a University Campus; the Occupational Health in industry; with voluntary agencies such as Concern or Goal; in the area of Health Promotion, or as Medical Representatives.
General Nursing offers a wide variety of career path options. A General Nurse works as part of a multidisciplinary team towards promoting and maintaining the health of individuals, families and communities, caring for those who develop health problems and supporting them to live their lives to the maximum potential. General Nursing typically involves looking after sick people in traditional settings such as hospitals. However, it also equips you to work in other settings such as the community, nursing homes, hospice care, the army, universities etc.
General Nursing degree courses are offered by Universities and Colleges throughout Ireland. On completion, you graduate with an honours Bachelor of Science degree in General Nursing, and can apply to register as a General Nurse to An Bord Altranais, the profession’s regulatory body. You are then ready to start work as a qualified General Nurse in a variety of clinical settings. Newly qualified nurses can currently expect a starting salary on about €24,418.
Career progression in Nursing depends on a mixture of work experience and further study. For example, further post-registration programme options include: Children's Nursing; Nurse Tutor; Public Health Nursing; and Nurse Prescriber.
Post-graduate Diplomas and Masters qualifications will provide further career opportunities such as: Clinical Nurse Specialist, Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Emergency Nursing, and Intensive Care Nursing.
A General Nursing qualification can also lead to careers in such areas as Health Service Management or Medical Research. It worth noting that a general nursing qualification is recognised in many other countries, and so is also a passport to opportunities to travel and work abroad.
Midwives work in public and private healthcare settings, and in community healthcare settings, such as Primary Healthcare Teams. To qualify as a midwife requires successful completion of a Bachelors Degree in Midwifery, which is offered by several Universities and Colleges countrywide, followed by registration as a midwife with An Bord Altranais. Midwives then typically spend their first year gaining practical experience in either a public or a private healthcare setting.
MEDICAL AND DENTAL
Careers in medicine and dentistry range from General Doctor or Family GP, to Surgeon, Radiologist, Oncologist, Anaesthetist, Audiologist, Dermatologist, Paediatrician, Gynacologist, Optometrist, Opthalmologist, Orthopist, General Dentist, Orthodontist and Oral Surgeon and many more.
[Explore occupations in detail via Sample Occupations on the left of this page.]
The first step to becoming a Medical Doctor is a recognised degree. On completion of the Medical Degree, candidates register with the Medical Council and then complete an Intern year as House Officer with one of the hospitals recognised for this purpose.
Further training is required by all Junior Doctors to become a specialist in a particular area. For example, General Practice (GP). To become a GP you must undertake a further three years training. Another year is then spent as a trainee in a teaching general practice. GPs then complete an examination to become a member of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP)or The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).
Degree courses in medicine are offered in Trinity College, UCD, UCC, UCG and the Royal College of Surgeons. In order for school leavers to be eligible to compete for entry to undergraduate medicine, they must both (a) achieve a minimum of 480 points and (b) meet the minimum entry requirements for each medical school for which they have applied and these must both be achieved in the same sitting of the Irish Leaving Certificate Examination, or equivalent.
Click here for current details.
HPAT and GAMSAT: Applicants to medicine must sit the Health Professionals Admissions Test (HPAT) or Graduate Admission to Medicine (GAMSAT) tests and pay fees for these exams. (Currently €115 and €310 respectively.)
Standard school-leaving applicants to undergraduate medicine sit the HPAT-Ireland test and its score is used in conjunction with the Leaving Certificate exam results. A website has been setup to assist students prepare and register for the HPAT test, and practice tests can be purchased from this site.
GAMSAT-Ireland is the route for graduates of any discipline who are applying to medicine via the graduate entry route to any of the four schools who offer the course (UCD, RCSI, UCC and UL). GAMSAT is also used for graduate entry to veterinary medicine in UCD.
There is currently a skills shortage for Doctors in Ireland. After qualifying, many young Doctors opt to leave Ireland in search of higher salaries and better working conditions. 50% of the doctors in Irish Hospitals are now from non-EU countries. HSE salaries for Trainee Doctors (Medical Physicists) currently start at €23,500. A qualified Doctor can expect to earn a minimum €65,000.
Required Language Competencies: Recent procedural changes regarding the language competency of Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHDs) can be accessed here.
An opthalmologist is a fully qualified medical doctor who has specialised in the correction of vision, and works in the treatment of all conditions, disorders and diseases of the eye.
To become an opthalmologist, students undergo the standard medical education to be a doctor of medicine and then pursue specialisation in opthalmology. In the Republic of Ireland there are two types of Eye Specialists: Medical Eye doctors who undergo 11 years of clinical medical training, and Eye Surgeons who undergo on average 14 years of clinical medical training.
Dentistry is the branch of medicine concerned with the teeth and gums and health of the mouth. Careers in the sector include: General Dentist, Orthodontist, Periodontist, Oral Surgeon, Cosmetic Dentist and the various support roles Dental Lab Technician, Dental Hygienist, Dental Assistant and Dental Nurses.
In Ireland, Dental Healthcare is provided by a combination of community dental services through the HSE, and private /general dental practictioners.
A general dentist is similar to the GP in medicine. They provide general dental health care, prevention and maintenance work such as teeth cleaning, cavity fillings, and root canals.
To become a General Dentist, it is necessary to complete a full-time five-year Degree programme. Courses are offered by UCC and Trinity College Dublin. As well as having an extremely demanding entry requirement, the course itself is regarded as one of the most difficult in the country. Because of the demand for places, students often also apply to Dental Schools in the UK theough the UCAS system.
Once qualified, many dentists enter general practice. Post graduate qualifications are required for specialist dentistry practices such orthodontics.
The average starting salary for Dentists is around €50,000 a year and grows much higher with a number of years experience.
Medical diagnostics is concerned with procedures and tests to confirm or interpret a medical diagnosis. Careers in this area include Radiography and Pharmacy.
Radiography is one of the most important tools in modern medicine. The use of X-rays, imaging and ultrasound enables diagnosis and assessment that would otherwise be impossible. High-energy radiation also provides life-saving treatment in cancers and tissue disease. Radiographers have the technical expertise and understanding to use these advancing technologies to best effect. There are two radiography specialities:
1. The Diagnostic Radiographer who takes pictures of parts of the body where illness or injury is known or suspected.
2. The Therapeutic Radiographer who uses a controlled amount of Radiation to treat patients with diseases such as cancer.
Salaries start in the region of €34,000. There are good employment prospects for Radiographers, both in Ireland and abroad.
Degrees in Pharmacy are offered by UCC, Trinity College and the Royal College of Surgeons. After completing a four year degree course, pharmacists must complete a one year pre-registration period in a chemist or hospital pharmacy before they can work independently.
Currently, the five-year programme in Ireland consists of a PSI (Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland) accredited four-year Bachelor degree programme in a school of pharmacy, followed by a one-year Internship Programme which results in the award of a Level 9 Masters degree. Once students complete pre-registration, they can choose to work in a retail pharmacy, a hospital or in a pharmaceutical company. [Scolarships available for RCSI course - details here]
As a practising pharmacist in Ireland you must be a memebr of PSI. Graduates can expect an average starting salary of €60,000 working in a retail pharmacy. There is a high demand for qualified pharmacists and that demand is expected to continue.
Pharmaceutical technicians assist the pharmacist with dispensing information, processing prescriptions, the preparation, checking and filing/storage of medicines. The pharmaceutical industry is steadily expanding, and the number of pharmacies has incresed significantly, indicating that pharmacy technicians will continue to be in demand.
Two-year Higher Certificate courses are available, that qualify candidiates as Pharmacy Technician. Colleges offering this qualification include AIT, DIT, IT Carlow and LYIT .
ALLIED HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS
This category includes all medical treatment areas and therapies which aim to relieve, manage and cure patients with particular conditions:
Occupational Therapists help people who have a disability to achieve the maximum degree of independence in their daily lives. They are employed by Hospitals or work in settings such as schools, prisons, community centres or nursing homes.
Courses for this profession are offered by NUI Galway, UCC Cork, and TCD. Starting Salary with a Health Board for example, is approximately €35,000.
Speech and Language Therapist:
SLTs identify and offer therapy to people with communication disorders. People of all ages are treated but most of the work is with children. Problems from birth such as cleft palate, or special educational needs may be the reason children require support, or for adults, problems with speech following an injury, a stroke or an illness such as Parkinson’s disease.
Speech therapists work closely with other medical professionals such as doctors, psychologists Occupational and music therapists, teachers and social workers. Degree Courses for this profession are offered by NUI Galway and UCC Cork, and TCD. There is currently a shortage of Speech & Language therapists both in Ireland and the UK.
Nutrition and Dietetics:
Nutritionists and Dieticians give advice on all aspects of nutrition and diet. Hospital dieticians may specialise in such areas as diabetes, heart disease, and paediatrics, for example. They are also employed in business and industry as advisors or researchers. Recognised courses to qualify to work in this area include B.Sc. in Nutrition and Dietetics. A typical starting salary is €34,000.
Physiotherapists work with a variety of cases such as people who have had accidents, people who suffer from arthritis or children suffering from spina bifida, cerebral palsy or cystic fibrosis. Sports Physiotherapists work with sports injuries, an area that has grown significantly in recent years.
Four year degree courses in Physiotherapy are offered by UL, UCD, TCD and The Royal College of Surgeons. They work in a variety of settings such as Hospitals, Community Care, and Private Practice. A starting salary of €30,000+ can be expected.
An optometrist Test eyesight looking for any disease or visual defects. They prescribe and fit glasses or contact lenses. They usually work in Private Practice, (retail outlets such as Specsavers) but a small number work in hospitals or lens manufacturers.
In Ireland there is only one institution where you can study optometry DIT 4 years BSc Optometry. The course is approved by the Opticians Board, the registration and regulatory body for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians in Ireland. After a couple of years experience, an Optometrist can expect to earn up to €80,000 a year.
A podiatrist (also known as chiropodist) is a health care professional whose area of expertise is the foot and ankle area of the body. Podiatrists are educated in diagnosis and in planning and implementing interventions for all age groups. A podiatrist, typically works as an independent, autonomous practitioner, demonstrating expertise in assessing, diagnosing and managing lower limb and foot-related problems. This career also involves working alongside other health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and orthotists.
As a specialist in foot care, the Podiatrist receives extensive training in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of foot and ankle disorders by medical and surgical means. To work as a Podiatrist you need to complete a B.Sc. degree in podiatry.
COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) includes a wide range of therapies, remedies and health systems that are typically not promoted within conventional medicine.
Below is an outline of the main Complementary and Alternative Therapies:
Acupuncture is a system of healing which has been practised in China and other Eastern countries for thousands of years. It is used to treat people with a wide range of illnesses. Its focus is on improving the overall well being of the patient, rather than the isolated treatment of specific symptoms. The principal aim of acupuncture is to recover the equilibrium between the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the individual.
Most acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine training programs require students to have a bachelor's degree. Qualifications in areas such as physiology, anatomy, biology and psychology are especially helpful for a career as an acupuncturist. Prospective students are advised to evaluate carefully and choose an acupuncture school in Ireland that is affiliated with a respected Chinese University, and adheres to World Health Organisation (WHO) training standards.
Chiropractic care is concerned with the detection and correction of abnormal joint movement and position. It is often focused on the spine, but care also involves treatment of other areas of the neuromusculoskeletal system. After thorough examination and analysis, chiropractors use carefully controlled and directed pressure (adjustments) to restore proper spinal and other joint function and thereby reducing interference to the nervous system. Chiropractors also recognise the importance of nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle factors on overall health and will often give patients advice on these topics.
Doctors of Chiropractic undergo a minimum 4-year full-time university education (in England or Wales) with an emphasis on neurology, diagnostic imaging, physiology, and spinal adjusting.
Homeopathy is a system of medicine which uses plant, mineral and animal substances in potentised form to stimulate the body’s natural ability to overcome illness. It can be used to treat many ailments. Homeopathy is the most frequently used CAM therapy in 5 of 14 European countries surveyed. It has been available on the NHS in Britain since 1948 and four of the private Health Insurance Companies in Ireland currently provide cover for Homeopathy.
To become a homeopath and member of the Irish Society of Homeopaths
(ISH) members must successfully complete a four year professional training course which has been accredited by the ISH. Registered ISH Homeopathy Practitioners (ISHom) have also completed a two-year registration programme with the ISH.
Osteopathy is a form of drug-free non-invasive manual medicine that focuses on total body health by treating and strengthening the musculoskeletal framework, which includes the joints, muscles and spine. Its aim is to positively affect the body's nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems.
To become an osteopath, undergraduate training is available at The Irish College of Osteopathic Medicine at the National Training Centre in Dublin. On completion of the programme graduates attain a BSc (Hons) in Osteopathy, validated and accredited by the University of Chester, internationally accepted qualification, which affords graduates the ability to practice as an Osteopath in Ireland and many other European countries.
Reflexology is the holistic understanding, study and practice of treating points and areas in the feet and hands that relate to corresponding parts of the body. Using precise hand and finger techniques, a reflexologist may improve circulaton, induce relaxation and enable homeostatsis. This encourages the person's own healing systems to be activated to maintain wellbeing.
Professional practitioner training courses in reflexology are available through a number of centres nationally. More information is available here
Note: There is currently no statutory regulation of complementary therapies in Ireland. Some have informal or voluntary systems of registration organised by their respective professional body, but these have no basis in law. CAM practitioners are subject to a range of legislation and regulation, including consumer legislation, competition law, contract law and criminal law.
In 2003, the Department of Health and Children established a National Working Group on the Regulation of Complementary Therapists, which, in 2005, produced a report for the Minister of Health which addressed: definition and categorisation, education and training, professional associations, unification of the sector, and differing professional associations for the same therapy. This work has not yet reached its conclusion.
Health and demand for Healthcare services are directly related to the size and make-up of the population. Results from Census 2011 show that the population of Ireland is continuing to increase. In the past 10 years, the birth rate has increased by 27%, with 73,424 births in 2010. Life expectancy has also increased. People living and working in Ireland can now expect to live to an average age of 77 years if you are male, and 81 years if you are female. Each year, the number of people over 65 years grows by about 20,000 and population projections predict that by 2020, more than 20% of the total population will be over 65.
These developments mean increasing pressure on the Irish Healthcare system and its resources. More patient beds will be required, more GP and outpatient consultations, more prescriptions and more residential and long-term care for older people.
There is evidence of labour market shortages in many healthcare occupations. These occupations include medical practitioners, podiatrists, dentists, various types of therapists (including dieticians) and radiographers. There are also shortages of nurses and pharmacists.
Useful Career Sheets [pdf files]
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