There are various ways of getting training in Ireland. The first one that I discovered was the CPSP – College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan pathway. Later on, the BST – Basic specialty training and GP – General Practice training schemes were revealed to me. In this blog, these three pathways will be clarified to the best of my ability.
HSE-CPSP Postgraduate scholarship programme:
You must be currently enrolled in a FCPS (Fellow of college of physicians and surgeons of Pakistan) training and must have passed the IMM – Intermediate module. Moreover, you need to have cleared the IELTs- International English language test system or OET – Occupational English Test. For IELTs, the requirement is score of 6.5 in each category i.e. reading, listening, speaking and writing and a total of 7.0. Whereas, minimum score for OET is a ‘B’ in all categories and in total as well. Lastly, this course is open only for certain specialties like internal medicine, gynaecology, paediatrics, psychiatry and general surgery. For 2021, the CPSP website shows that it was open only for psychiatry!
Once, you fulfil these criteria, then you can fill the online application form on this website: https://www.cpsp.edu.pk/HSE-CPSP-jan-2021.php. The application period is usually in Dec – Jan of every year. In 2021, the last date for applying was 21st January but I remember when I applied in 2019, it was 31st December. So, you need to keep on the lookout as the dates differ each year. Furthermore, these days, the focal contact person is Ms. Sylvia Conception so you can email her for any queries regarding your scholarship. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If she doesn’t reply quickly enough and your query is urgent then you can call the CPSP Karachi office on 99266433.
After having submitted the online application, if you are shortlisted for the interview then you’d receive an email within 2 – 3 weeks. This interview has to be conducted within the premises of CPSP. I was shortlisted for it but unfortunately, I had already arrived in Ireland by that time and the administration would not agree to a skype meeting. Therefore, this pathway closed for me.
- It’s a scholarship so most of your expenses are covered like Irish visa, IMC registration fee (for the first year), first flight to Ireland and even accommodation for the first 7 days.
- The IMC – Irish Medical Council registration process is expedited as the programme begins by July of the same year.
- There’s no need for a crazy job hunt.
- You get a Stamp 1 visa – General work permit that is renewed every year so you’re spared the hassle of getting your job contract extended to ensure your stay in Ireland. Besides, for the non-training SHO – senior house officer posts, the visa is only for 6 months! Imagine, having the visa renewal sword hanging over your head every few months!
After the 2 years have completed, you must return to Pakistan to complete your training, if there’s any left. Generally, people take IMM after 2 years; spend 2 years in Ireland and are done with the training if it’s a 4-year programme. But if it’s a 5-year FCPS training then you need to do that extra year too.
Also, you cannot seek employment in Ireland for at least 12 months after concluding the scholarship. I have been told that the CPSP and HSE ensure that these two conditions are met so there’s no way of getting around it unless you travel to UK for your next job. Some colleagues of mine have adopted this course of action as well.
Now, on retrospection, I realize that it was a blessing in disguise that this pathway closed itself for me because I would not have been able to travel back to Pakistan or to UK as my family is settled in Ireland. In addition, this scholarship can get you a job but has no future prospects with regards to higher specialty training or consultant position. Thus, if you plan to stay in Ireland for long term then this route is certainly not for you.
Lastly, you can not decide your station because you’ll just have to go wherever you get the position. Well, that is true for most training positions but in BST or GP scheme, at least you can give a preference and hope to be placed there.
Basic Specialty Training:
Before explaining this further, let me elucidate the structure of post graduate medical education in Ireland. In Pakistan, after house job, you either take the MD or FCPS Part 1 exam to start your 4- or 5-year programme. That means, you take an entrance exam; apply for CIP -central induction policy and once selected, have a set plan for the entire duration of your training. However, in Ireland, the process is a bit longer and consists of two distinct stages: BST and HST.
First, you need to be eligible for the trainee specialist division of IMC registration then you apply for BST – basic specialty training in any of the four categories:
- General Internal Medicine
- Obstetrics and gynaecology
Once the 2-year BST programme is completed then you start the application process again for HST – higher specialty training that can comprise of 4-6 years depending upon your specialty.
As I applied for General Internal Medicine last year and got selected for it so I will explain this process in detail in my next blog.
- Proper incorporation into the Irish medical system. After completing BST and HST, you can become a consultant – the peak for any doctor.
- You have more rights in your job. You can’t be treated shabbily by the administration which is sadly the case with most non-training positions. Doctors are treated unfairly as compared to their ‘in training’ counterparts. They have more work hours and no career progression.
- You have a direction and support from your supervisor to enhance your learning.
- You get access to many RCPI – Royal college of physicians of Ireland courses for free.
- Your PCS- professional competence scheme fee is waived off. It is mandatory for all doctors in Ireland to maintain a professional competence every year. That means, in addition to the yearly 560 euros fee of IMC registration, you pay 250 euros for the PCS!
- Difficult to get shortlisted especially if you are non-EU.
- Hard to step down to if you’ve completed your training in Pakistan because BST position means you become an SHO – senior house officer and are back to being a junior on the team.
General Practice training:
This concept is new for Pakistanis because we have no GPs – General practitioners in Pakistan. Nonetheless, general practice is a good career if you plan to stay in Ireland and want to have a relatively good work-life balance.
The eligibility is similar to that to BST i.e. housejob/intern year, trainee specialist division and IELTs.
I also applied for this last year so will write a separate blog to explain this in detail.
- Shorter duration to become a consultant i.e four years in total
- Very good work-life balance
- Good pay as well. Sometimes, GPs are earning even more than medical consultants!
- Difficult to get shortlisted especially if you’re non-EU
- Hard for us Pakistanis to get used to the idea of being ‘just’ a GP and not a specialty doctor.
These are the facts that I learned with my hard-earned experience. I hope they can benefit you and make it easier for you to reach a decision. Best of luck for your future!