For young (old) doctors planning to write the primaries exams towards exploring the residency pathway in Nigeria, here are some of the common questions frequently asked and answers by experienced young doctors who have gone through the process successfully and are currently on the residency career path.
Q: What are the benefits of primaries? What are its limitations?
A: Primary exam is the entrance point to residency. So the question should be, what is the benefit of residency training? I feel, for most of us, the country is heading towards the need for specialization in chosen fields to practice, except one plans to open her/his own practice. In which case you would still need to pay specialists to attend to some patients. Residency enables specialization in the medical/clinical practice. If you have an interest in a particular specialty, can study for it and “afford” the residency (in terms of the sacrifice of “not making money” and “lack of time” for your family/socializing); then, I would say, go for it!
Q: Can it be written only post NYSC or during?
A: It’s advisable to write the exam during NYSC as you might have more time on your hands during the service year. However, the best time to start preparing is during housejob. The reason being that during internship, you have the opportunity to have many other young doctors (and senior colleagues) you can form discussion groups with. Discussions are very important to passing exams in medicine, as you can get other viewpoints from materials you do not have in your possession or have the time to read. You can also be linked with valuable contacts and mentors among your trainers at that time. Just show the interest. You can also write it afterwards but it would be more work, especially if you have a full time job at the same time. The longer after housejob you leave it, the more difficult it becomes due to external pressures (such as getting and managing a job, spouse, children etc.). Timing and planning are of essence.
Q: Do we need to write both West Africa and National? What is the benefit or limitation of one over the other?
A: It’s best to try the exams for both colleges. If you are not successful in one, you can then apply for a waiver for that college. The chances of passing are higher if you study for both at the same time. Also, depending on the specialty, and where you will do the residency program, there are some advantages of one college over the other. For example, some faculties are not available in one of the colleges or there are no trainers/accreditation for the specialty in the institution you are practicing, so you may have to go elsewhere for that part of your training. These may motivate the choice of college to write the primaries in.
Q: How does the National waiver work over West Africa and vice versa?
A: West Africa waiver is more expensive when compared to the National waiver because they charge in dollars and convert to naira. So, it is best to pass the two. However, passing West Africa over National is better because of the waiver price – the national primaries exam and exemption is cheaper – but both primaries are equivalent and can be used vice versa.
Q: Do we have to compulsorily write the exam for the two colleges then?
A: Both results can be used vice versa in getting a waiver for each of the colleges. So, you do not necessarily have to write both, if you are sure you will pass the one you have chosen to write. Most people write the two at once to have options. In case anything happens, you will go home with one but it’s merrier if you have the two. it always gives an advantage of choosing and having alternatives.
Q: How best can I be prepared for primaries apart from reading?
A: DISCUSSION! Have a serious study group. Tidy past questions during discussion. ATTEND UPDATES not just for the knowledge but to gather materials and see what others are doing or know that you do not.
Links to West Africa colleges and National college for update:
This article was collated from the National Young Doctors Forum of the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria (MWAN). Questions and collation by Dr Mary Agoyi. Answers and contributions by Dr Gbanaibolou Oweifa, Dr Adaobi patience Agbata, Dr Aminatu Makarfi Umar and Dr Esomchukwu Uzoamaka Anastasia.