INTERVIEW: From GP in Nigeria to Neurosurgeon in Oman

We recently spoke to TrueProfile.io Member, Dr. Emmanuel Augustine Emmanuel, to congratulate him on becoming TrueProfile.io’s Spring Scholar. Dr. Emmanuel tells us about life as a General Practitioner in Nigeria, gives some tips for aspiring GPs and reveals his hopes for the future.

You have been a General Practitioner in Nigeria for over 7 years. Do you have any experiences that stand out to you in your medical practice?

Stand-out experiences involve interpersonal relationships with clients and colleagues. In Nigeria, and I’m sure in much of the world, patients come from different backgrounds, have different beliefs and cultures and speak different languages. Often, it is difficult for doctors to navigate these cultural differences.

Dr. Emmanuel interview Nigeria Doctor

Although English is the official language in Nigeria, there are over 500 native languages spoken in my country and over 250 ethnic groups. Patients who do not speak English usually have a relative that acts as an interpreter for them. In hospital settings, usually, a nurse or an orderly can help with translations. When doctors need to navigate a language barrier, we use Google Translate. It may not be perfect, but we need to understand what the patient is trying to say. Overcoming this hurdle to give patients good social satisfaction alongside evidence-based care has been my strong suit.

How has the pandemic impacted your life?

The pandemic has caused a significant strain to healthcare worldwide, the worst in my living memory. But on a personal note, the pandemic really stalled my quest to travel overseas to seek new challenges. I was already preparing my documents pre-COVID-19 and my friend gave me study materials for the Prometric exam. Unfortunately, there are no Prometric exam sites in Nigeria and I have to travel to Ghana, where the exam center is. Because of this, I had to spend one extra year in my home country.

What does a typical day working as a GP look like for you?

My typical day begins at 8 AM and ends at 5 or 6 PM. However, there are times when I am called to assist in surgery, like today. It’s only 7:30 AM and I just came from taking an emergency surgical case. Then I’ll go on to my normal consultations for the day. My day also involves covering the ER/ ultrasonography and some routine procedures. Simply put, I do a lot of multitasking.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a GP?

The biggest challenge I have faced as a GP practicing in Nigeria has been the paucity of technology/equipment,  the high workload and the limited opportunities for career progression. As with many healthcare systems, doctors are limited in ratio in terms of the population they serve.

What advice would you give to anyone considering taking the GP career path? Do you recommend it?

For anyone willing to follow the GP pathway, I’d advise it as a temporary route. I strongly encourage that one should specialize and ideally sub-specialize.

Do you deliver any of your support and care remotely? 

I’m purely a hospital-based clinician. But I’m open to the prospect of remote/tele-practice, provided it is in line with international best practices.

Other than having relevant academic qualifications, what core skills do you think are the most important for being a doctor?

In my opinion, apart from clinical qualifications, interpersonal relationship skills and empathy are fundamental and intrinsic in medical practice. The absence of those skills will breed a knowledgeable but insensitive and inhumane physician. Like in my case, I have to consider the community here and the patient’s background when interacting with them. It’s not a straightforward subject where I’ll diagnose and they’ll be on their way. 

Outside of work, what do you do in your free time?

Dr. Emmanuel interview Nigeria Doctor

Apart from my routine work, I have several hobbies. When your work piles up, the stress piles up. So you have to unwind in some way, and for me, those hobbies, including swimming, watching movies and playing football, are my stress relievers.

You specified in your myTrueProfile Country Preferences that you want to work in Oman. Why Oman specifically?

Of course, I’m open to opportunities outside of Oman. My preference for the Sultanate of Oman was purely because I have a friend there. He has given me information about the culture of the country. Learning about the culture and the country encouraged me to look for opportunities there. I’m saving the money up for my flight ticket to Oman, and I plan to use the scholarship funds for that. I also intend to specialize in the future and possibly sub-specialize. I’m looking at going into neurosurgery and also sub-specializing in either spinal surgery or brain surgery.

How has becoming a TrueProfile.io registered Member helped your career?

I think TrueProfile.io is a unique organization that helps prospective applicants to seek employment overseas. I truly and surely will recommend TrueProfile.io to any health worker who wishes to advance their career!

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