Occupational physicians' education and training across European Union countries

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Abstract

The framework directive on improvements in the safety and health of workers is being implemented into the national legislation of European Union countries, and occupational physicians are requested to play a key role in undertaking preventive measures. Since there is no common specific requirement for the training and education of these health professionals, this report aims to provide a comparative picture of the educational process across European Union training bodies. Each curriculum provides theoretical knowledge and practical experience, but deep differences exist among different countries. Core knowledge is mainly based on the traditional disciplines (such as occupational hygiene, occupational toxicology, ergonomics, epidemiology and biostatistics, relevant legislation, and preventive medicine). General learning objectives should include assessment of the workplace environment, communication and education, legislation, occupational diseases, and relationships between health and work. Core experience, often based on task-based learning, emphasizes the need for assessment of a range of working environments; for surveillance, including the biological monitoring, of workers at risk; for assessment of disability, impairment, and fitness for work; for the clinical ability to recognize occupational diseases; for the formulation of differential diagnosis; and for management of workers developing disease in the course of their employment. New curricular elements (such as management, economics, quality assurance, and marketing) are being introduced in some institutions with the aim of stressing the renewed role of the occupational physician in meeting society and employers' needs. The need to educate and train a professional figure whose competence should allow the delivery of high-quality occupational health services across European Union countries compels the harmonization of the formative process of occupational physicians.

Received: 3 January 1999 / Accepted: 14 January 1999