Dr Sharon Irvine, ST4
Brief ‘definition’ of specialty

Joint training programme in infectious diseases and microbiology. The joint training programme is a six-year programme (ST3 to ST8) with entry following completion of Core Medical Training. The programme comprises of three years each of microbiology and infectious disease, alternate years. While in microbiology, on-call will be for medicine and vice versa.

Exam Requirements

Entry to the training programme requires full MRCP examinations. The main examination hurdles during the training programme are to successfully complete a year 1 objective structured clinical practical examination (OSPE) in microbiology and then go on to complete the Royal College of Pathology (FRCPath) examination, part 1 and 2. During the training programme it is also advisable to obtain the Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (DTMH) which is now run through the University of Glasgow. There is also a final exit examination for the infectious disease side of the training.

Other requirements

The joint programme unfortunately requires you to follow and complete two separate portfolios, one via the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Training Board (JRCPTB) and one via the Royal College of Pathologists. There are regular infectious disease training days run throughout the year in various locations across Britain which are excellent. Mandatory courses, as with all other medical specialties, include management courses which are run by NHS Education Scotland (NES). Other non-mandatory courses include infection control courses, a Diploma in HIV, a Diploma in Public Health, and Virology.

Opportunities for out-of-programme research

I have found that there is significant opportunity for out of programme research (OOPR). I feel that it is an essential part of the training programme and I am about to embark on a three-year Medical Research Council (MRC) clinical fellowship. My research is based around using new technology to analyse the transcriptome of pseudomonas in an attempt to look for new antibiotic targets.

A day in the life

During my ST3 post I was based within the Infectious Disease Unit in Glasgow where I was doing ward work and clinic for the first six months. I then rotated to doing consults across all Glasgow hospitals and helping to run the outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy (OPAT) service. One day per week I was in the microbiology department and my on-call commitment was for microbiology where I took part in the weekend and evening/overnight on-call rota. This was unusual for an ST3 post as the ideal would be to be based entirely in microbiology to enable completion of the year 1 OSPE. Prior to medicine however I worked as a biomedical scientist (BMS) in microbiology for eight years which meant I was able to miss out on the laboratory induction.

Pros and Cons of working in this specialty


  • This specialty is extremely interesting and I feel the combination of the two specialties is a very beneficial one
  • The current situation with the two specialties being separate means that both ID and microbiology are being consulted for specialist advice, however both working very differently
  • It allows you to complete core medicine training and continue with clinical work while learning microbiology in much greater depth
  • The future of both specialties as separate entities is unclear and in fact there is a move to combine training in the form of ‘infection’ training. My view when applying for the specialty was that being dual qualified could only be beneficial when applying for a Consultant post


  • Cons of the training programme include the fact that you have to work from two separate portfolios as stated above
  • Another major drawback in my opinion is that I am also unable to continue with General Internal Medicine (GIM), as I was very keen to do so
Tips for success in applying
  • When applying for this specialty it is essential to have completed numerous audits and/or a research project in this field
  • It is also advisable to try to get a rotation within the ID unit and/or microbiology which not only allows you to get to know the Consultants within the field, it also allows you to complete audits and gives you better access to training opportunities
  • There are various societies which you could also join or attend yearly meetings including the Scottish Microbiology Association and the British Infection Association
  • Enthusiasm and commitment to the specialty are the key and therefore any way to show this during the application and interview are a must