BECOMING A SURGEON

The idea for this page was developed after the 2004/2005 final year students of the LAUTECH Medical School invited me to give them a talk on what to do to become a surgeon in Nigeria. What are those requirements, academic and otherwise that a medical graduate needs to become a surgeon in Nigeria?

To start with, there are some reasons peculiar to Nigeria and other developing countries that makes the practice of medicine in these places perhaps more difficult than in the western world.
These are

Probably, the first and most important question you should ask youself is this:

Is surgery right for you?

These questions are very important because some studies done in the United Kingdom showed a high rate of dropping out from a chosen specialty four years after registering for such them. Surgery scored one of the highest rates. Poor job satisfaction in a given specialty is usually due to a poor appreciation of what the specialty is all about. Therefore your motivation and expectations are important factors in determining your future job satisfaction as a surgeon.
So before you make the decision think hard and talk to your teachers to find out whether surgery is for you

Who then is a surgeon?
What does the society expect from a surgeon?

After medical school, how do you become a surgeon?

  1. You must be registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria. Please check here for the registration fees.
  2. You must have completed a one year internship program at recognized hoapital. For a not very full list of approved training insttution, please check here
  3. If you are a Nigerian, you must have completed the compulsory one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) or obtain an exception.
  4. You must pass the primary examination of either or both of the two examination bodies. The bodies are the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) and the Faculty of Surgery (FS) which is a faculty under the National Postgraduate Medical College Of Nigeria (NPMCN). The two exams are equivalent.
  5. You must obtain a training position with an accredited training hospital. Please check here for the list of hospitals accredited by WACS and here for the accredited list of the NPMCN. Most times, hospitals accredited by one college is usually accredited also by the other
  6. .For this you might have to sit for a written and oral interview. The competition is very intense nowadays, therefore be well prepared
The Primary Examination in Surgery

As shown in the table below, the format is different in the two colleges.

Primary Examination formats in the two examination bodies
West Africa National
Written Yes No
MCQ Yes Yes
Orals Yes Yes for those who pass the orals
Practicals Yes No

The Training

Junior Residency
This is made of 18 months of intensive clinical and academic training usually in a hands-on fashion.You will need to rotate through various subspecialties such as You will spend three months in each specialty except for General surgery where you are to spend 6 months. The Specialties that are marked with * are optional, but you must do at least 2 of them. You will also be given a logbook that in which you will record all the procedures you carried out during your training.
The Examination itself is done over a period of 2-7 days and it takes the following format
The procedures are similar to but far more intensive to the clinical examinations in most medical schools.
Be good; the Post graduate college offers a N500,000.00 prize for the best candidate for the year to enable the person to train abroad for a period of six months to one year.
Senior Residency
On passing the examinations, you become a senior registrar in your area of subspecialty. For surgeons in training, this may be the most important period of your schedule because this is when you learn the practical of your specialty, what I call the period of apprenticeship. Surgery has been called a science and an art, this is where you learn the "art" aspect of surgery. You should develop a closeness to your consultants to make this easy. This is also the time you begin to take important treatment decisions and learn to become independent.
Unlike many other specialties, the surgery senior registrar is the busiest person in the unit especially during call periods. Every patient that comes to the unit during call period is reviewed by him, so he is kept pretty busy.
Depending on the subspecialty, it takes between 18 months and 48 months for a senior registrar to be eligible to sit for the part two examinations.
The format of the examinations is different for the two examination bodies.

National Postgraduate Medical College For those specializing in orthopaedic and trauma surgery, a clinical examination comprising a long case, short cases and viva voce sessions are also held.

Part II projects hints
The part II project is the reason why many candidates fails to go for the FMCS examination. They see it as an obstacle thats difficult to surmont and therefore go for the WASC examination. By doing this, they reduced their chances of passing the exam in a giving peiod because they'll sit for one exam instead of the two. The ironic thing is that the project apart, its far easier to pass the FMCS exam than the WASC because their is no clinical aspect in the former.
I am therefore going to give you some hints about choosing your project topic, writing the proposal and subsequent procedure.

West African College of Surgeons

Please note that the two colleges hold their exams for each stage twice in a year: APRIL/MAY and OCTOBER/NOVEMBER.

And that's all folks