How to Become a Medical Doctor in Nigeria

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This article contains steps and requirements on how to become a medical doctor in Nigeria

Medical Field

Medical doctors as we all know are physicians who work in hospitals, clinics, medical centers, or private practices. A doctor is someone trained to restore the health of the sick. He or she has the knowledge of diagnosing and treating human diseases, ailments, injuries, pain and other health conditions.

Due to the nature profession, not everyone can perform well in the field. Irrespective of this known fact the medical field is arguably the most desired field for most Nigerian students career-wise.  For some, the lucrative nature of the field is the attraction because medical doctors are among the highest paid professionals in the world while for others; their passion for the profession is the attraction.

The competitive nature of the course has made it very difficult for candidates to gain admission into Nigerian universities to study medicine and surgery. This has, however, not deterred those who wish to study the course though there are still some who are determined to study the course but do not have adequate Information on what is required to become a medical doctor.

If you’re one of such students, this article is for you as it contains information on how to become a medical doctor in Nigeria.

Requirements to Become a Medical Doctor in Nigeria

To qualify as a medical doctor in Nigeria, there are certain academic requirements that must be met. Hence, to become a medical doctor, the preparation starts right from senior secondary school. As a person with the intention to study Medicine and Surgery, you are required to be in a science class. In other words, you cannot be in the social science or art classes with the intention of becoming a doctor. You have to be in the sciences where the required subjects such as Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Physics and English form the core subject areas.

Admission into Medicine and Surgery

To get admission into Medicine and Surgery, Scoring a minimum of 5 credits in core science subject areas including English and Mathematics is the criteria. However, this is not all that is needed as you will have to write the JAMB (Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board) exams and score high enough to make the cut-off mark of most Universities offering this discipline.

In Nigeria, there is no stipulated cut off mark for Universities. However, different Universities have varying cut-off marks for Medicine and Surgery but usually it falls within the range of 300 – 400. This implies that a lot of work must be done by the student.

This is also applicable to post-JAMB screening which also is necessary. This is organized by Nigerian universities as a screening measure to ensure only deserving students are admitted.

Alternative Ways of Gaining Admission

There is more than one way of getting admitted to study Medicine apart from following the UTME process. In a situation where you did not perform well in some of the core subjects needed for admission, there is no cause for panic. You can also gain admission through direct entry or a remedial program which is offered by most Nigerian universities. Going through direct entry implies that you must have studied a medical related course in any higher Institution of learning. However, the advantage of using a direct entry is that Instead of starting from 100 level, you will rather begin from 200L.

In the case of the remedial programme, just as the name implies, it is basically to remedy the areas of subject deficiencies. You’ll be required to take some prerequisite medical courses and sit for an examination within the duration of one year at the university you’re seeking admission into. The examination usually takes place at the end of the two semesters, of which the second semester exam carries the heaviest credit load. How well you perform in your remedial program will determine if you will get admitted into medicine or not.

Once you’ve successfully completed your remedial programme, you’ll be offered admission into the university to study medicine and surgery.

The competition for studying medicine and surgery is very high. Therefore, whatever method you are using to gain admission, always score as high as you can so that you could be among the few that would be selected because at the end of the day, only 250 out of  thousands of people who applied for a course end up being admitted.

Duration of Study

The duration of time it takes to become qualified as a doctor is usually very important. In Nigeria, you will have to spend 6 years in training. During the 6 years training, you will be faced with heavy workloads and courses that might overwhelm you if you are not determined. Such academic tasks are to train you to become dependable and provide the much needed skill and experience required for the field.

You’re required to pass all your courses successfully before you’ll be awarded your degree and operational license.

The Level Steps You Need to Pass to Become a Medical Doctor in Nigeria

After gaining admission into a medical school or university as the basic prerequisite, your journey of becoming a medical doctor then begins. The Nigerian medical school has different levels (100, 200, 300, 400, 500 & 600 levels) you need to pass as steps to becoming a certified medical doctor. For better understanding, below are things to expect in each of the 6 levels.

1. 100 Level

Normally, in your first year, you’ll be taking courses that are more or less a reminder of some of the things you did in secondary school, plus some added workload. This means that you will take courses in physics, chemistry, biology, zoology, mathematics, and General studies. There will also be separate practical courses in chemistry, physics, and biology. You’ll be required to take and pass exams in each of these courses.

2. Pre-Clinical Level (200 & 300 Level)

The Preclinical level refers to your 200 level and 300 level. It is a period during which you need to learn all the normal functions of the body. When you know the normal aspect of the human body.

This is the level that introduces you to the basic medical courses different from natural science courses you attended lectures together with every other science student, but in 200 level, you will get your own class and start medical school proper. Here, you’ll be taking purely medical courses in anatomy, embryology, histology, physiology, biochemistry, and community medicine. You’ll also take practical classes in gross anatomy where you’ll be required to perform dissections on cadavers

The courses you will be studying include: Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology and Community Medicine. The purpose of these courses is to educate you on the normal body functions of the human body

Throughout your 200 level, you will only write tests without writing exams. Your first professional examination comes in your 300 level. For the fact that you are not writing an exam in 200 level does not mean you have free time, you will be engaged and the workload is much. All you have been doing in 200 and 300 levels will be combined in your first professional exam in 300 level which is called the second M.B.B.S professional examination. Once you’ve successfully passed this exam, you’ll move to  400L where you’ll begin clinical activities.

3. Clinical Period (400, 500 and 600 Level)

After your 3rd year in medical school, you will then move to 400 level which is in a totally different environment. From your fourth year to your sixth year, you’ll be engaged with clinical activities which often take place in the University teaching hospital. In your 400L, you’ll be taking courses in pathology, microbiology, pharmacology, and medicine and surgery.

Remember that in your Preclinical period, you were learning the normal functions of the human body, but in this clinical period, you will be dealing with the abnormal conditions and how to treat or restore them to normal.

In your 400 level, you will be having lectures in Pathology, Pharmacology, Medicine and Surgery. These courses can vary according to various universities. Below are some important courses to expect in this level;

Medicine: In your 400 level, you will be introduced into Medicine as a course. You will learn the ethics of the medical profession. You will also learn how to take the history of a disease in order to arrive at a diagnosis, taking the history is otherwise known as clerking. You will learn the various types of diseases, their symptoms and signs and how to diagnose them. You will equally be shown how to perform examinations of patients coming with various diseases, infections, growth, pains etc. You will learn both in class as lectures and also the practical aspect in the hospital. Moreso, you will be given patients to ask them questions in order to know what brought them to the hospital. After you must have taken their history, you will be required to present the patient, that is, you will stand before a senior doctor and you will narrate everything you asked the patients and  also say what you feel is the problem of the patient and how to treat the patient. In the clinical period, you have to learn how to speak and communicate well like a professional. This is the reason for this particular activity.

Surgery: Surgery is also another course you will do as an introduction in 400 level.  In surgery, you will learn the ethics of surgery and will only watch how operations are done in surgical theater by surgeons when removing tumours, repairing broken bones, and lots more. All the clinical activities form part of your eligibility to sit for the examinations and also part of your assessment because you will be given log books to sign everything you do. This is done by the most senior doctor before writing examinations. Moreso, before you write the examination, you must be eligible. Being eligible  to write  the examination means that you have successfully done all you’re required to do practically  and theoretically. In other words, eligibility is formed from your attendance of lectures, clinical activities and surgical theatres. If your name is not on the eligibility list, you cannot write the exam. After being eligible, you will then sit for the 3rd M.B.B.S professional examination for promotion to 500 level.

500 Level Courses and Activities: In 500 level, you will study Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Community Health, and Paediatrics. If you are eligible, you will then write the 4th M.B.B.S examination in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Paediatrics and Community Medicine. The community health exams will include all that you have been doing from 200 level to 500 level. Even though you have done a community health exam in 300 level (2nd MBBS), you will still write another one again in 500 level (fourth MBBS) and your project must be submitted before the exam.

600 Level Courses and Activities: 600 level is the final phase in medical school. In this level you are required to have known how to save a life because after the final examination you will be given a license to practice as a Medical doctor anywhere in the world and not just in Nigeria. It is therefore expected that at 600 level, you should have known the basic skills to save a life. After your final examination in 600 level, you will be inducted as a medical doctor in Nigeria and the final certificate which is the license to practice will be given to you. The certificate carries the award of the degree, M.B.B.S Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery. This degree is the same as a Master’s degree in Nigeria and can be used outside  of Nigeria.

4. Induction

The induction ceremony is just like a convocation ceremony. It is during induction that the certificates are given after every graduating student must have taken an oath referred to as the Hippocratic Oath. This oath binds the doctor to his patients and that of his practice. As a doctor  you must abide by the oath and if found guilty in any way contrary to what you swore an oath to, your license could be revoked.

Also, since medical schools do not use Grade points, there are no First Class, Second Class, or Third Class degrees awarded in medicine. All students who successfully pass out from medical schools in Nigeria are awarded the same degree. After your Induction, you can then proceed with your housemanship or internship in any MCDN (Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria) hospital of your choice.

The MDCN is the organization that has the sole power to issue licenses to any Medical practice in Nigeria.

Conclusion

To become a doctor in Nigeria is not as easy as it is in developed countries. However, generally, the medical profession irrespective of how prestigious and lucrative it is, is very demanding. Therefore, it is not a profession that should be ventured into with greed. It therefore requires individuals who are passionate about human lives and most of all disciplined and very patient. Being disciplined is a basic requirement.

Also, patience will see you through your years of study as there are a lot of sacrifices to be made as a Medical student. Without these attributes, you are likely to give up along the line as the course is naturally tasking and takes a longer time to complete.

Following the information contained in this article, I strongly believe that you have  been cleared on the issue of what it  entails to become a medical doctor in  Nigeria. So, as a junior student, start now to pay attention to your core science subjects in order to score very high to qualify for admission. On the other hand, if you’re already a graduate in any other medical related course but strongly desire to become a doctor, worry not; you can easily switch to become a doctor through either direct entry or a remedial program especially if you have issues with your core courses.

Finally, if you desire to be a doctor in Nigeria, I hope this article has been able to help you with the necessary information you require to achieve your dream.

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Leonel Schuster

Leonel has been Teacher at Alliant International University since 2013. He began to write about admission details at Course Discovery.