How to Become a General Practitioner in Ireland

Being a doctor is one of the most well-respected professions in the world today. And if you’re in Ireland, that respect will be well-earned. Pursuing a medical career will mean between ten and sixteen years of schooling and a lifetime of learning.

Before you dive into that many years of hard work, it’s important to know what’s involved. Read on to learn how to become a general practitioner in Ireland and what your life will look like once you do.

What Does a General Practitioner Do?

General practitioners, or GP’s, are the primary doctors patients will see throughout their lives. They will tend to the physical, psychological, and social needs of their patients either through providing a diagnosis and treatment or providing a referral. Because their practice can cover a wide range of issues, they must be well-versed in many different disciplines.

Most GP’s are self-employed, which means that their hours can be flexible. While this may sound like an easy life, this will often mean working weekends and holidays as needed. You’ll serve as patients’ first portal to medical care, so you’ll need to have good working knowledge and relationships with a variety of specialists.

Secondary School Requirements

Students who want to be doctors, whether GP’s or otherwise, will need to make that decision by the time they’re 15 or 16 years old. This is when you’ll begin studying for their Leaving Certificate, and there are specific requirements you’ll need to meet with that exam. You’ll also need to take English, Irish, maths, and a third language to be eligible for med school.

You’ll also need to register your decision to pursue a medical degree with the Central Applications Office. You need to make sure you submit this application to pursue a medical degree to the office by the 1st of February in the year you take your Leaving Certificate.

Leaving Certificate Requirements

Students enter medical school straight out of secondary school, so the scores you make on the Leaving Certificate will be what determines if you’re accepted into a medical programme or not. To be accepted into a medical programme, you’ll need to take the exam at an honours level in at least two subjects, both sciences. You’ll also need to take at least one lab science exam at the honours level.

In order to become a doctor, you’ll need to score at least straight A1’s in five subjects and an A2 in the sixth. In other words, you must score at least a 570 out of 600 on the Leaving Certificate. Some schools won’t accept you if you score less than 590.

HPAT-Ireland

Before you’ve taken your Leaving Certificate exams, you’ll also need to take the Health Professions Admission Test-Ireland or HPAT-Ireland. This tests your reasoning, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. It takes place in February before the Leaving Certificate exams, and you’ll need to register for the test directly.

In order to be admitted to a medical programme, you’ll need to score at least a 170 on your HPAT-Ireland. The test is more about your personal skills than your academic knowledge. You can find more information and resources for the test on the HPAT-Ireland website.

University Requirements

So you’ve passed your Leaving Certificate Exams and your HPAT-Ireland and been admitted into a programme. Congratulations! Now you’ll need to pursue a bachelor’s degree in medicine to start your path to being a GP.

There are six medical schools in Ireland: Trinity College Dublin, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, University College Dublin, National University of Ireland Galway, University of Limerick, and University College Cork. Most of these programmes will take five to six years to complete.

MICGP Exam

Before you finish your undergraduate programme, you’ll need to take the Membership Exam for the Irish College of General Practitioners (MICGP). All trainees who want to be GPs must pass this exam and be eligible for membership in the ICGP. The test is comprised of three sections: two written papers and a clinical competency test.

The Modified Essay Question (MEQ) and Clinical Competency Test (CCT) Modules are restricted to those who are in their third year of training and have completed six months as a GP Registrar.  The Core Knowledge Test (CKT) is available to take from Year 2 onwards.

Internship Year

After you finish med school, it’ll be time to head into your intern year. This is when you’ll start to see the reality of patient care in a practical healthcare setting. You’ll develop personal and professional skills that will help you succeed as a doctor for the rest of your career.

In order to get your internship year placement, you’ll go through the HSE Intern Match process. You can begin applying to internships in October, and at the end of your programme, you’ll join the Medical Council of Ireland and receive a Certificate of Experience. This Certificate will be important in your specialization.

Specialising as a GP

After your internship year, it’ll be time to begin training in your area of specialisation. This is when you’ll learn the specific skills needed to be a GP and get some on-the-ground experience in that area. There are fourteen training schemes in general practice spanning across the country.

Specialising as a GP will take you an additional four years after your internship year. You’ll continue to work in hospitals for the first two years after your internship, and then you’ll work in supervised general practice settings during your third and fourth years.

Higher Specialisation Training

After you’re done with your specialisation as a GP, you’ll have two options: you can choose to go into practice, or you can pursue a higher specialisation. The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland offers a General Internal Medicine specialisation that you can earn. You can get a sub-specialty in one of sixteen areas, including clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, infectious diseases, palliative medicine, respiratory medicine, and more.

The higher specialisation training will take an additional four to six years, depending on your specialty. These programs are designed to make you a leader in your field and are the highest level of training a doctor can achieve. You’ll receive a Certificate of Satisfactory Completion of Specialist Training (CSCST) at the end of the program and will be able to register with the Medical Council as a specialist.

Becoming a Consultant

Once you’ve earned your CSCST, you’ll have the option of becoming a consultant, a highly regarded position in the medical industry. However, these spots are very competitive, so you’ll need to make sure your application stands out among the rest.

Many doctors take time after their higher specialist training to work abroad and build their portfolio. You may perform research and audits and try to get some publications accomplished during this time.

Consultant Responsibilities

If you choose to become a consultant, the position comes with a great deal of responsibility. You’ll see patients and oversee other doctors under your supervision. You’ll also be required to help train those doctors and other medical trainees and be responsible for the clinical decisions they make.

Consultants also help to push their field forward through research and involvement in national campaigns for change in the medical profession. You’ll need to participate in a Professional Competence Scheme to continue to pursue lifelong learning. You may also be involved in committees, societies, and working groups, as well as becoming a fellow in those professional bodies.

Streamlined Training Options

If all of this sounds like a lot of time spent in school, you may be eligible for a streamlined training option. These spots are very elite and require an extremely high level of performance from the students. You enter these programmes after your internship year, and they last between six and eight years.

You will be required to take a number of complementary courses during this programme that will help you develop excellent management and analytical skills. You’ll rotate through different training posts in your speciality every six to twelve months throughout the programme.

After School

So you’ve finally finished all your school, and you’re ready to begin practice on your own. For most GP’s, this will mean going into private practice. This will involve running your own surgery, hiring administrative staff, and taking care of all the responsibilities of any small business.

Learn More About How to Become a General Practitioner

Becoming a doctor in Ireland is a long, grueling process and should not be undertaken lightly. But if you feel medicine is where your life belongs, then knowing how to become a general practitioner is the first step. Be prepared for many years of schooling, many more years of on-the-job training, and a lifetime of learning.

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