Nigerian parents and “Go to school to study medicine” are like five and six. But what’s the reality of life as a doctor? We already know they spend like ten years in school, but these six doctors tell us more about their love-hate relationship with their jobs.
I’d describe it as a perfect oxymoron because it’s been a bitter-sweet experience for me. I have worked as a doctor for 11 years and I am currently training to become a Psychiatrist. I love being a doctor because of how noble it is as a profession. I love that my job exposes me to the frailty of mankind and diverse situations that need solutions. I also get to brag a bit, like, “Hellooo, I save lives for a living.”
On the other hand, my job is so tedious and demanding. I hate the sleepless nights when I have to be on call at the hospital for more than 24 hours. The hardest part is going through constant training — it’s a whole lifetime of reading and constante burnouts. If I had a chance to rewrite my story, I’m not quite sure I’d study medicine again — there’s no balance between the job and my personal life. Something always suffers.
I didn’t choose to be a doctor. My father forced me into studying it at school, so I just got stuck with the career. I’ve grown to love the satisfaction of treating people, but I still dislike my job. The driving force to be in this field is the relief you see on a patient’s face after confirming their “diagnosis” from Google was wrong. It gets me everytime. I hate that the reading never stops. There’s always an exam to get through and it only gets worse at the top — I’ve given up on the hope that I’ll be done with it. The pay isn’t great [in Nigeria], so that’s a downside to the glory of saving lives. There are opportunities in the UK, but you spend half of the money taking exams to compete with your peers.
I’m currently doing my housemanship as a dentist. I love my job because there’s a form of artistry that comes with handling a person’s teeth. People think it’s an insignificant part of medicine, but there’s a lot of damage that can happen from a tiny toothache. As a dentist, being in Nigeria makes it tough. There’s money in it, but it takes years to really cash out. The hazard allowance for us is also really horrible. The government just reviewed it from 5k to 32k — what does that cover in comparison to the kind of diseases we are exposed to daily? The structures in the clinics make the job more exhausting — dentists have to do everything alone. Simple things like scaling and polishing that should take me ten minutes can take two hours because I don’t have an assistant. My patient has to keep getting up to spit out rather than having a suction in place — it’s annoying. I’ve been so impatient with my patients because of how exhausted I am.
I decided to leave America and come to Nigeria for my housemanship after graduation from school. Regardless of where you practice, the feeling of fulfillment as a doctor is next to none. Paediatrics has been my favourite department so far — helping a woman give life is so beautiful. I don’t entirely regret coming back to Nigeria, but some days make me wonder why I didn’t just stay back. The insults from superiors or angry patients can make it horrible sometimes. Don’t even get me started on the long hours on call for horrible pay — government hospitals are the worst. I’ve had to spend holidays without my family, go hours without food, miss celebrations with friends, and why do doctors have to go on strike just to get paid for the work we do?
I’m currently working as a non-training doctor in the UK — Nigeria had too many obstacles keeping me from becoming a consultant, so I had to japa.
As a doctor, I love driving home knowing I saved a family’s loved one from dying. Knowing that there’s someone who has an extra day to live makes me feel good, so losing a patient is tough for me. There are days I cried from losing a patient right before a surgery. As an empath, the down-side for me is the unconscious attachment that happens when I’m on a journey with a patient. Sometimes I find myself paying for tests or medical procedures because my patients can’t afford to. So finding the balance between being compassionate and professional was difficult for me in the first few years of practicing.
I am a General Practitioner (GP) in training. I knew working as a hospital doctor would not give me the desired time to pursue other personal interests outside of medicine. As a GP, I love caring for patients through their recovery. I enjoy seeing them move from painful stitches to living full and healthy lives. Then there are patients who are self-proclaimed doctors and try to do my job — sometimes I just want to yank them out of my office, but I’m there to save them from themselves.