Starting a career in the medical field

Starting a career in the medical field

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A friend of mine, who is a nurse, recently invited me to give a career talk to a group of senior secondary school pupils in a public school. She needed professionals to talk to the pupils about the medical profession as part of her project in fulfillment of a degree programme in guidance and counseling. I was invited alongside a pharmacist.

In my submission, I told the youngsters that I was one of the best pupils in secondary school. My co-speaker, the pharmacist, also said he was the best in his secondary school.

After the talk, one of the pupils approached me and confessed that he was not among the best in his class because his academic performance was just average. He asked, “Doctor is there any hope for me? Will I be able to fulfill my ambition to become a health professional?”

I had to tell him that hospitals are not only for doctors, pharmacists and nurses. I made him to understand that there were other health workers in the background. I told him about colleges of health technology, which are virtually in almost all the 36 states of the federation. Also, I told him that such institutions were equivalent to polytechnics and they were established for the purpose of raising middle level health workers.

Parental guidance

When the time comes to leave school, many 16 and 17 year-olds start to seriously consider what to do next if they fail to get good results in their final examinations. In Year 11 or 12, the realities of adulthood, responsibility and work come rushing towards these pupils like a runaway train with its headlights on high beam. This is the time that parents help their children start their adult life in an industry that offers immense opportunities for travel, further study and career advancement.

I will start by talking about middle level health workers who are equivalent to technicians in the non-health sector.

Nigerian system

In the Nigerian context, schools of health technology or colleges of health technology were established in the late 1970s as part of Nigeria’s Basic Health Services Scheme to train a new cadre of Public Health Care workers for the basic health units in the country.

Currently, these institutions train a variety of public health care workers, including community health extension workers, junior community health extension workers, environmental health officers, medical technicians and health information managers.

Courses offered

Dental therapy: A dental therapist is a member of the dental team who provides preventative and restorative dental care, usually for children and adolescents.

Dental technology: Dental technicians work as part of the dental care team within a dental laboratory and so, they do not usually have direct contact with patients. They design and construct various forms of artificial teeth and orthodontic appliances.

Health Information Management: This was formerly called medical records, Health information managers design and manage information systems in the healthcare system. They collect and generate records and reports about patients who are being treated by doctors and other clinicians.

Community Health Extension Worker: They usually work in health centres in rural and medically underserved areas, where they see and treat patients and provide a range of community health services.

Medical Laboratory Technician: Medical laboratory technicians play an important role in the prevention and diagnosis of diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and AIDS. Medical lab technicians work under the supervision of a laboratory scientists, physician and perform laboratory tests on specimen.

Environmental Health Technology: Environmental health officers (also known as public health inspectors) are responsible for carrying out measures for protecting public health, including administering and enforcing legislation related to environmental health and providing support to minimise health and safety hazards.

Pharmacy technician: A pharmacy technician, sometimes known as a pharmaceutical technician, is a health care provider who performs pharmacy-related functions, generally working under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist

X-Ray technician: Also known as radiologic technicians, these professionals are responsible for safely using radiation to record an image of a person’s bones and tissue. First, the technician must explain the procedure to the patient and situate him or her on a table.

One important thing to know is that this cadres are middle level health workers whose services are essential to the functioning of a health facilities. They are accepted into the civil service from grade level six or seven.

Basic pre-entrance requirement

The course duration ranges from two years to four years, depending on the programme. One advantage of some of the courses is that it will earn the person a certificate in their chosen career. Some obtain a national diploma while some go further to have a higher national diploma. Pre entrance requirements is also four or five credits including Mathematics and English language.

Some of these courses don’t require University Matriculation Examinations and the institutions running these courses are all over the country, some of the programmes are run by the university teaching hospitals all over the federation.

Employment opportunities

The Nigerian economy has compelling needs in the primary health care sector. Most of the cadres mentioned above the mid-level health workers have a comparative advantage in the labour market.

The Babatunde Fashola administration had offered all 265 graduates of the College of Health Technology in Lagos automatic employment while attending the second convocation of the college.

To be continued

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