Infectious diseases have shaped human history and continue to pose significant challenges to public health globally. Infectious disease doctors are involved in diagnosing, investigating and treating patients with infections. They deal with infectious microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi. Global emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted that the role of ID doctors has never been more critical. This specialty blends laboratory and clinical work. Patients who are chronically ill and those who are acutely ill are mixed together. The majority of patients treated by infectious disease physicians are inpatients at big, specialty hospitals. Multi-disciplinary team working is to be expected. Infectious disease doctors are expected to work with nurses, laboratory staff and other medical specialists. Additionally, an interest in public health, lab-based work and research are also important. So how do you become an infectious disease specialist. Below are a few pointers:
After medical school, graduates can enter residency programs that focus on infectious disease or commonly after core training, they can apply and enter infectious disease training streams. There are varied streams that can incorporate microbiology, pathology and internal medicine, and whichever path taken, it takes on average seven years to finish.
After core training, candidates commonly have to take membership examinations and to ensure they are certified in terms of their training having been completed. In some countries, this referred to as being board certified. In the United Kingdom this refers to gaining your Certificate of completion of Training (CCT) accreditation. Commonly, specialists undergo a fellowship within a subspeciality in infectious diseases which can be at least one year.
ID doctors need a blend of hard and soft skills. They must be analytical and detail-oriented to accurately diagnose infections, which often have complex and overlapping symptoms. Working in a team is essential and collaborative skills are a must. Commonly you will work alongside people from varied specialties, more so if you do a fellowship or sub-specialise into fields such as virology.
The daily work of an ID doctor varies and includes patient consultations, diagnosing and treating infectious diseases, and collaborating with other healthcare professionals. They often work in hospitals, but may also see patients in outpatient settings or work in public health. A significant part of their role involves staying updated with the latest research and treatment protocols.
ID medicine offers various sub-specialisations. Some ID doctors focus on Tuberculosis, virology and others on infection control in healthcare settings. With the emergence of new diseases, some specialise in emerging infectious diseases, continually adapting to the evolving landscape of public health.
The career of an ID doctor is demanding yet rewarding. They often face emotionally and physically challenging situations, especially during outbreaks or pandemics. Keeping up with rapidly evolving pathogens and treatment methods requires constant learning. However, the impact on individual patient lives and public health is immensely rewarding.
If you are a young doctor considering entering ID as a specialisation, the iheed and Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Professional Diploma in Infectious Diseases will greatly assist your chances of securing one of the coveted residency places in this high demand area. Enhancing your e-portolio of experience is vital for any speciality application and such a diploma strengthens this.
Alternatively if you are a healthcare worker looking to hone your skills in this essential area then this programme is also for you. We would highly recommend viewing the video by the Former President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, an ID Specialist, explaining this course in detail. This video can be found on the header of the programme webpage Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Professional Diploma in Infectious Diseases