It's Occupational Health Awareness Week 2022!

22/06/22 – Blog

In celebration of Occupational Health Awareness Week (19-24th June 2022), we thought we’d catch up with some members of our Medigold Health Team, to learn a bit more about how they came to work in Occupational Health, get their top tips for anyone wanting to start a career in the field and find out their thoughts on why access to OH services is so important for businesses.

Occupational Health Awareness WeekCalum Howell – Senior Occupational Health Technician

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to work in a job that helped people. When I was 16, I sustained a serious rugby injury (I broke my back), which prevented me from playing contact sport again. As a result, I went to university and studied Sports Science, followed by a Master’s in Nutrition and Public Health, to give me a good platform to start in a health-related job.

How did you get into Occupational Health?

I got into Occupational Health by fluke. Five years ago, I was finishing my MSc and received a phone call from a recruiter talking about Occupational Health. I liked the look of the job spec and was offered a position with an OH company and have never looked back. The previous provider I was employed with required me to travel nationwide and the work involved a lot of overnight stays. After a year, I was headhunted by another recruitment agency and I moved to Medigold Health with the promise of working regionally, with limited stays away. It’s meant I’ve gained much more balance and am now able to enjoy my life outside of work.

What would you say is the most important reason for businesses to have access to Occupational Health?

To ensure that their employees’ health doesn’t deteriorate during their employment with the company, but also to support their employees through hard times in their life and enable them to stay in or return to work.

What is your advice for anyone wanting to embark on a career in Occupational Health?

Take the leap! OH professionals make a real difference to the health of workers and working in Occupational Health is rewarding, as you know the work you are doing is helping others to go about their life in a healthy way.

Occupational Health Awareness Week (1)Margaret Wright – Occupational Health Advisor

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a racing driver. I was brought up with motor racing as my father was involved in the sport for over 40 years, so as a child my life was spent at motor sport events all over the UK and Europe. Thanks to him, I have been lucky enough to continue to feed my passion for motor sport, which I competed in regularly for over 20 years. Mostly I was behind the wheel, but I have also been known to sit as navigator (with my now husband) at rally events. I’ve now retired from motor sport and travelling has replaced racing as my main love. Professionally, I started my working life as a Personal Assistant to a Marie Curie Hospice Medical Director and it was working within that setting that got me into nursing.

How did you get into Occupational Health?

After completing my Nurse Training, I was offered two jobs, one as a Theatre Nurse in a hospital and the other as an Onsite Nurse at Glasgow Airport. Because travel has always been important to me, I decided on the airport role – it was the best job ever and from there my interest in Occupational Health began.

What would you say is the most important reason for businesses to have access to Occupational Health?

I would say that by accessing Occupational Health, businesses are looking after the health and wellbeing of their employees, which in turn has a direct impact on improving sickness absence levels, retention of staff and morale generally. It also helps to reduce the cost of staff absence. When It comes to keeping people in or getting them back to work, early intervention is key, and I believe that OH also has an important role in advising, for example on adaptations to both the workplace and the work environment, to help employers ensure they are providing their employees with the right support so they can always perform at their best.

What is your advice for anyone wanting to embark on a career in Occupational Health?

For me, a career in Occupational Health means variety. No two days are the same and every day is a learning day. I feel there is tremendous job satisfaction despite the challenges and hard work involved.

Occupational Health Awareness WeekDr Jonathan Behr – Occupational Health Physician and Clinical IT Lead 

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  

Once I realised I wasn’t going to win Wimbledon or play in midfield for Arsenal, it was always actually to become a doctor! 

How did you get into Occupational Health?  

I qualified as a GP and was undertaking 11 sessions in a 10-session week. I felt that a better balance was needed, and Occupational Health felt like a natural extension of what I was already doing as a GP to some extent: helping to lessen the impact of health conditions on people’s lives. Obviously in Occupational Health the focus is on the impact a condition has on a person’s ability to work and helping them to work well; it is a hugely rewarding feeling when a good outcome is achieved.  

What would you say is the most important reason for businesses to have access to Occupational Health?  

Aside from the regulatory requirements that Occupational Health helps with in certain industries, there is no doubt that by businesses utilising such services, the burden of absence and presenteeism is reduced, meaning a healthier, more effective workforce for longer.  

What is your advice for anyone wanting to embark on a career in Occupational Health?  

If you want to consistently feel like you are making a difference and want the opportunity to develop specialist expertise in occupational disease and disease prevention while at the same time maintaining your general medical/surgical knowledge, all in the context of a very good work-life balance, then definitely go for it! There are many good support organisations available, such as the Society of Occupational Medicine, to help you plan your career development. 

Occupational Health Awareness Week Steve Way – Chief Technical Officer 

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  

I really wanted to work in music.  I grew up with a drummer for a Dad; he also had to do other jobs to help pay the bills, but until his mid-40s he had what I considered to be an amazingly cool job playing in and around London in various bands. Therefore, at the age of 16, I joined the Royal Marines School of Music in Deal, Kent and trained as a RM Bugler (despite the rank, we were mainly drummers!), spending the next 11 years travelling the world playing music.  As a first career it allowed me to play in a marching band at FA Cup Finals, a concert band at the Albert Hall, as one of the Buglers at the Cenotaph in London for Remembrance Day and in a rock band in pubs from London to Port Stanley and a fair few venues in between!  

How did you get into Occupational Health?  

Sadly, I had to leave the Royal Marines for medical reasons, which led to me taking a degree in Computing and Informatics. My wife, Laura, was an OH Nurse at the time and through her I met an OH Consultancy who needed some IT support.  As well as general support, I went on to develop an OH Management system for them as my final year project. We struck up a good rapport and ended up starting a specialist OH Software company in 2001. By 2002 we had launched the first online pre-employment screening service in the UK, along with a sickness absence call centre service. The two companies merged, and I eventually moved from Technology into the MD position, which I occupied until we were acquired by Medigold Health in 2017 and I was appointed their Chief Technical Officer. Next year will mark my 25th anniversary of starting work in OH.   

What would you say is the most important reason for businesses to have access to Occupational Health?  

For me, it’s a combination of protecting your business and caring for your employees.  

Services such as Health Surveillance ensure that controls and mitigations are working when employees are exposed to workplace hazards. Employers that neglect to carry out appropriate monitoring put their business at risk not only from HSE fines, but also from litigation relating to such exposure. Using this type of OH service is therefore essential for some businesses.    

Caring employers use OH positively and achieve a happier, healthier, more productive workforce as a result.  Referring employees to a professional OH service (via a management referral) when they become unwell or have been injured to assess what tasks they can carry out benefits both parties. It ensures that the employer receives the specialist advice they need to help the employee back into the workplace safely and swiftly and that the employee feels supported.  Other employers take things to the next level by engaging with promotional and preventative health strategies, and those that do tend to see positive outcomes that far outweigh the cost.  

What is your advice for anyone wanting to embark on a career in Occupational Health?  

Do it! I know from being married to an OH Nurse for 25 years that being a clinician in this field can be extremely rewarding, and I certainly don’t miss the shift work she used to do when working in hospitals. Working in OH can also be a dynamic and rewarding experience for non-clinical staff. Within my development team we are working on cutting edge software using the most modern and efficient techniques. My infrastructure team, under our Director of IT Services, Kev Martin, are moving us towards a modern cloud-first environment. The last couple of years have been incredibly tough but I only see OH growing as a sector within the UK and it is certainly diverse enough to ensure that the work can be both varied and fulfilling.  

Dr Scott Lang – Occupational Health Physician 

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  

I wanted to play for Scotland in as many different sports as possible! 

How did you get into Occupational Health?  

I decided to start specialising in Occupational Health after working in a hospital and being surprised at how many of my colleagues felt uneasy giving advice about when patients could return to work or drive after being discharged.  

What would you say is the most important reason for businesses to have access to Occupational Health?  

The moral, legal, and financial benefits of keeping employees in safe and productive work while maximising every employee’s potential. 

What is your advice for anyone wanting to embark on a career in Occupational Health?  

Consider getting in touch with a local Occupational Health clinician (perhaps via the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) network) to ask to sit in on some clinics, to get an understanding of the work we do and the benefits and challenges of providing a holistic consultation and thereafter robust, impartial OH advice to employers. 

To find out more about what it’s like to work for Medigold Health, check out our Careers Page.


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