New survey reveals 8 in 10 Nigerian doctors are seeking work opportunities abroad

Abuja August 3rd, 2017: A new survey conducted by Nigerian Polling organization NOIPolls in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch, has revealed about 8 out of every 10 (88 percent) medical doctors in Nigeria are currently seeking work opportunities abroad, and this finding cuts across junior, mid and senior level doctors in both public and private medical institutions such as house officers, corps members, medical and senior medical officer, residents, registrars, consultants and medical directors. Interestingly, the United Kingdom and the United States are the top destinations where Nigerian medical doctors seek work opportunities. Consequently, many Nigerian doctors are currently registered to write foreign medical exams such as PLAB for the UK (30 percent), USMLE for the United States (30 percent), MCCE for Canada (15 percent), AMC for Australia (15 percent) and DHA for Dubai (10 percent) amongst others.

Further findings revealed that the reasons for the looming brain drain in the health sector include challenges such as high taxes and deduction from salary (98 percent), low work satisfaction (92 percent), poor salaries and emoluments (91 percent) and the huge knowledge gap that exists in the medical practice abroad (47 percent) amongst others. These were some of the key findings from the survey and we hope these findings would help stimulate conversations amongst stakeholders in the country’s health sector and trigger much needed reforms to redesign of a health system that is responsive to the healthcare needs of the nation. This survey also seeks to sound an alarm of a looming brain drain in the country’s health sector if nothing is done urgently to curb this rising trend of emigration of healthcare practitioners – physicians, nurses, pharmacist, and laboratory scientists amongst others. To download the full report, kindly visit our website: www.noi-polls.com

Brief Background

Nigeria has about 72,000 medical doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, with only approximately 35,000 practicing in Nigeria.

The emigration of the Nigerian healthcare workforce, particularly medical doctors has been a lingering problem in the country. In a bid to measure the scope of this trend, NOIPolls in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch conducted a survey on medical doctors to assess the prevalence with which medical doctors pursue work opportunities abroad and probable reasons why. The findings are critical to the ability of the health system to retain adequate skilled personnel to cope with Nigeria’s growing population. 

The survey was targeted at Nigerian medical doctors, and it involved a mixed methodology approach employing quantitative and qualitative methods. For the quantitative method, an online survey using a standardized, well-structured questionnaire was employed; and a semi-structured interview guide was utilized for the qualitative approach. The various cadres of doctors were captured in both the quantitative and qualitative methods. Respondents to the online survey were not limited by geographical location, although the in-depth interviews were conducted with medical doctors in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Nigeria’s National Population Commission (NPC) has projected current population to be about 182 million at a 3.5% growth rate from the 2006 census. This means we need about 303,333 medical doctors now, and at least 10,605 new doctors annually to join the workforce. Only at this level can we expect good quality patient care that is not compromised by errors occasioned by fatigued and overworked medical doctors. 

The Survey found that 88 percent of medical doctors interviewed said they were currently considering work opportunities abroad; and this particular finding cuts across the junior, mid-level and senior level doctors in both public and private medical institutions. Interestingly, the United Kingdom and the United States are the top destinations where Nigerian medical doctors seek work opportunities. 

Prevalent reasons for emigrating include better facilities and work environment, higher remuneration, career progression & professional advancement, and better quality of life. Majority of survey respondents (87%) believe government is unconcerned with mitigating the challenges facing medical doctors in Nigeria. In addition, 26 in-depth interviews (IDIs) were conducted as part of the qualitative approach to gather insightful information on the challenges and underlying factors causing doctors to seek work opportunities abroad. Respondents to the in-depth interviews were medical doctors. 

At least 10 out of the 26 doctors interviewed mentioned Low work satisfaction as the foremost reason making doctors pursue work opportunities abroad. Many even placed low work satisfaction above poor remuneration, which was the second most prevalent reason cited for making doctors seek work opportunities abroad in the in-depth interviews conducted. Work opportunities came in third with at least 4 in 26 respondents citing work opportunity as the most prevalent reason, because doctors who are unable to secure a good job to cater for themselves and the family will be forced to source for better opportunities.

Many recalled the harsh working conditions they experienced during their internship. One doctor told how he worked day after day, without relief, for two months straight as a House Officer. He disclosed that it was during this period that he lost all interest in Paediatric medicine. Another spoke about the level of responsibility that hangs on house officers’ shoulders. Some doctors complained about how house officers and junior doctors are maltreated and verbally abused in the presence of patients, making the patients lose confidence in the house officer’s abilities as a physician. House officers and junior doctors were said to supervise the most number of beds on the floor, yet instead of being encouraged they get bullied and openly chided for every wrong decision made when their attending resident was not available. 

The problem of migrating doctors is even more bothersome because government makes medical education in Nigeria inexpensive, by funding Teaching Hospitals, and unfortunately upon completing their basic medical education these trained physicians, at the nation’s expense, then look for better opportunities outside the country, which is a gain to those countries as they didn’t invest in the doctors education, and a loss to Nigeria. 

A Medical Officer from a Public Secondary Hospital said, “Patriotism is in the heart, but no man will die or will be shouting patriotism with an empty stomach, it can never be done. If you want me to be patriotic you must take care of me and employ me. I told you it’s not the salary I’m looking for it’s the employment. Salary will come later. Patriotism with a hungry stomach is equal to zero, but patriotism with a full stomach moves mountains.” 

In a bid to understand the scope of emigrating doctors, the frequency, and the underlying factors, NOIPolls in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch conducted this survey on medical doctors to feel the pulse of these professionals. The findings are revealing and we hope with this report to catalyze the dialogue and an action plan that would design a health system that is responsive and meets the needs of both the Nigerian physicians and patients. 

The survey was conducted between the 1st and the 15th of May, 2017 to provide a snapshot of the prevalence of Nigerian medical doctors who are seeking work opportunities abroad. In total, 705 doctors completed the online survey the majority of whom were in Nigeria, but some of them reside outside Nigeria. Respondents to the survey cut across house officers, National Youth Service Corps members, medical officers, senior registrars, consultants, medical directors, etc.

To download the full report of this survey, kindly click this link.

METHODOLOGY

The survey was targeted at Nigerian medical doctors, and it involved a mixed methodology approach employing quantitative and qualitative methods. For the quantitative method, an online survey using a standardized, well-structured questionnaire was employed; and a semi-structured interview guide was utilized for the qualitative approach. The various cadres of doctors were captured in both the quantitative and qualitative methods. Respondents to the online survey were not limited by geographical location, although the in-depth interviews were conducted with medical doctors in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Disclaimer

This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published. 

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking.

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