There are dozens of career pathways available for Nigerian doctors who would like to practice overseas. But among all others, Nigerian Doctors write PLAB (Professional Linguistic Assessments Board test) and prefer the UK Pathway over the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), Australian Medical Council (AMC), and Medical Council of Canada (MCC) have won the heart of many Nigerian doctors. But even among these three, there is a reason why most Nigerian doctors choose to practice in the United Kingdom through the PLAB pathway more than USMLE, AMC, Canada, and others.
It will be good if you do not misunderstand the motive behind the brain-drain. That is why many Nigerian doctors prefer to practice in these other countries. It is simply because of the unfavorable conditions of medical practice in Nigeria; the longer work hours, lower pay, (Consultants all over Nigeria are paid between 800k to 1 Million Naira per month ie between $2000 to $2,600 per month).
This is way below what a Medical officer is paid in the U.K monthly. Other reasons why they leave Nigeria include other personal reasons like more career, too much office politics, Incessant strikes, poor infrastructure; generally poor working environment and conditions.
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Why Nigerian Doctors Choose the U.K, Canada, and Australia
The reason is obvious; Nigeria is officially an English speaking country. And U.S, U.K, and Canada are the three most popular English countries where Medical practitioners are treated best. For other great countries like Ireland, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the rest, you will have to pass through the additional stress of learning a foreign language. So much stress for someone who just graduated from Medical school.
So for Nigerian doctors, U.K, U.S, and Australia are the lands of their dreams.
What is Special about PLAB or Practicing in the U.K?
U.K doctors are not the highest-paid all over the world. Statistics from trustworthy online resources have shown that doctors are paid more in countries like the Netherlands, Australia, United States, Canada, United Arab Emirates, and some other countries. On top of that, the taxes in the United Kingdom is mind-blowing; over 40% as reported by a Nigerian Doctor practicing in Scotland.
Also, countries like the Netherlands and Australia enjoy fewer work hours. And in the United States, doctors enjoy lower taxes. So it will be interesting to find out why most Nigerian Doctors still choose PLAB over USLME, AMC, and others. This is based on opinions from some doctors in the U.K, and also extensively researched facts. But all the same, the statistics are not lying.
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3 Reasons Why Most Nigerian Doctors Write PLAB More than USMLE, AMC, MCC, and Other Exams.
1. PLAB is More Straightforward and Less Stressful For Nigerians
The pathway to practicing Medicine in the U.K and other English speaking countries in the Western world requires that one first passes through The International English Language Testing System (IELTS), before writing any Medical Exams.
For the U.K, after being certified by IELTS, next is PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 for any Medical graduate in a recognized Nigerian University. And once you pass these two exams, you can now start applying for jobs around the U.K, and if you get lucky, within just 3 months of passing your exams, you can secure a good job and start living the life of your dreams.
This is unlike USMLE that has both Step 1, Step 2 C.K, Step 2 CS, and Step 3. All are different exams and require preparations and independent payments for all. Too much for practicing outside Nigeria.
Also, for countries like Australia, the problem is not just that it is very far away from home (Nigeria), but you will have to complete a 12 month period of practice supervised by the Medical Board of Australia before an international student from Nigeria can apply for the AMC exams. But just like PLAB, the USMLE just consists of two exams; the AMC 1 and AMC 2.
For all other countries great countries, language is the major barrier.
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2. The PLAB Pathway is Less Expensive
Moving out of Nigeria to practice in other countries is not easy for Nigerian doctors. It will cost you almost all the money you saved up from your NYSC, Internship, and even two years of practice, if not more. This all depends on if the doctor was able to ace all his exams in one sitting.
But compared to USMLE and AMC, PLAB exams are way cheaper for Nigerians and costs an average of
E1,200(U.K pounds) ie about $1550 (US dollars) for both PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 (From a Nigerian Doctor in the U.K). This is excluding the total cost of taking The International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
On the other hand, USMLE costs Step 1, and Step 2 costs a whooping sum of $3,725 (U.S dollars) and even more if you re-schedule or change your testing region. Facts are from Nigerian doctors in the U.S and can also be confirmed on the ECFMG website.
The same goes for AMC; an average of 6,000 AUD (Australian Dollars) ie about USD $ 4,243.
So for an average Nigerian Doctor from average family background and social status, going for PLAB seems less bothersome. And from the U.K, some still find their way into these other countries of their dream U.S, Canada, and Australia, because the pathway for Medical Practitioners in the U.K to other countries like Australia is easier, and just easy for countries like U.S and Canada.
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3. Cost of Living in the U.K
After interviewing two Nigerian doctors; one living in the U.K, and the other; in the U.S, I figured that even with the very high tax rates in the U.K, the cost of living a modest life is way lower than you will get in the U.K.
The U.K has this way of subsidizing the basic necessities of life like; food water, clothes. Making life there simpler to live. This is just a minor factor, but not irrelevant, and is one of the three main reasons why most Nigerian doctors choose PLAB over USMLE, AMC, MCC, and other career pathways outside Nigeria.
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From responses gathered from about 10 Nigerian doctors practicing overseas from a recent interview in October, most of them actually would prefer to practice in the U.S Netherlands, Australia, and other countries where the salaries of doctors are much higher as compared to the U.K.
But the 3 discussed above explains why most Nigerian doctors choose PLAB over USMLE, AMC, MCC, and other career pathways.
But even after that, you will find that another percentage of Nigerian Doctors already practicing in the U.K still plan on moving over to these other countries of their dreams when they finally settle.