Who are doctors-to-be?
We, who began our adult lives spending alternate days with corpses, who carry bones in our bags and books that break our backs. Who spend the prime of our youth in the grime of wards. Who have already witnessed a lifetime’s share of deaths. Who learn about depression but fail to recognise it in ourselves.–Mrigank Warriers, 2013
The Federal Government woke up from slumber last week and terminated the appointment of resident doctors in Nigeria (about 16, 000 as quoted). Just like that! Seemingly without thought, devoid of reflection and missing any afterthought!
Personally, I think an ant must have bitten someone on the toe and he had a knee jerk reaction. The minister of health attempted to explain the termination as a ‘not a sack’, so perhaps they need to employ a dictionary in the ministry.
To sack a single resident doctor is bad enough and shows a lack of understanding of who a resident doctor is. Trawling through the social media and following the public responses to the termination reinforced this lack of appreciation of the worth of resident doctors, thus this article. I will focus on enlightening the minister, government and the public on the quality, calibre and the truth about the resident doctor.
This is the doctor in training under a consultant to become a fully trained specialist in the future. Resident doctors or registrars are those who having acquired a permanent licence (as doctors) following the undergraduate medical training, housemanship and National Youth Service Corps (in Nigeria), have gone back for post-graduate training in a chosen field of medicine. They often help teach medical students, nurses and other hospital workers while learning themselves.
For example, to become a neurosurgeon, one needs to obtain a post as a resident in a hospital accredited to train neurosurgeons. So, such a junior doctor will work under a qualified neurosurgeon for about five or six years, do multiple examinations and research, before finally being certified as a fully trained and qualified neurosurgeon. Someone you can then trust with your life and limb!
A special human being
Resident doctors are very special human beings. They do the work in caring for patients as front line doctors and the backbone of the unit, all rolled into one.
Resident doctors contribute a large chunk to the results generated by the training institutions. They contribute value in exchange for training and work much harder than what they earn. They work day and night for the institutions and do most of the grunge work.
The registrars often start the day much earlier than the consultant starts and end their day much later. They work much longer hours than most consultants and stay overnight on call in the hospital while the consultant snores his head off at home.
They do most of the work as instructed by the consultant, as this is the virtue of the training. The registrar is effectively the errand boy, the workhorse, the sponge, duster and the cleaner in the hospital. Many end up being moulded in the image of the specific consultant they are working with and as such are able to perpetuate the quality of care patients deserve as practised in the hospital.
A flower in bloom
However, as they are also at latitude to travel to other hospitals and countries as part of their training, they often have a worldlier outlook and perspective than some consultants do. In fact, the hallmark of a good trainer is to make sure your registrar or trainee is better than you are. Resident doctors are the young brains who are innovative, creative and stimulating. To watch a resident develop is like watching the rise of the sun or the bloom of a beautiful flower. That you have mentored someone and given him or her shoulder to see further than you, enhances your reputation as a trainer.
Please, sack all doctors now!
Residency training is a form of human capital development and is a chief responsibility of government over and above building roads and bridges.
In fact, any form of training done on government platform must never be seen as a favour from government to the trainee. Nigeria’s young doctors are sought after all over the world and to casually throw this calibre of doctors away with the bath water is simply idiotic.
No sane society will neglect, abort or even suspend the training of highly skilled professionals. Therefore, there is no value in sacking resident doctors, it is better sacking all doctors and be done with life!
Finally, when death knocks at the door, the doctor is looked upon as a god. When he accepts the challenge, he is looked upon as an angel. When he cures the patient, he is looked upon as a common person. When he asks for his fee, he becomes a devil.
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