Medical Geriatrics is a specialized field of medicine that focuses on the care of elderly patients. In Nigeria, the aging population is increasing, making the need for geriatric care more important than ever. However, the discipline is still in its early development stage and is an emerging field in Nigeria.
Medical Geriatrics Specialization in Nigeria
The practice of geriatrics requires a multidisciplinary approach, and it involves not only medical interventions but also social, psychological, and rehabilitative interventions.
The healthcare professionals that specialize in geriatrics must be trained to understand the aging process and the unique challenges that come with it, including chronic diseases, cognitive decline, and functional decline.
Geriatrics specialists must also have a strong background in pharmacology to understand the effect of medications on the elderly and the interactions between different drugs.
In Nigeria, geriatric care is still in its infant stage, and there are few specialized geriatric clinics or wards in hospitals. Most hospitals that offer geriatric services do not have the infrastructure, equipment, and trained personnel.
The majority of geriatric care is delivered in general medicine departments, making it challenging to provide comprehensive care necessary for the elderly patients.
To address these challenges, Nigeria needs to prioritize the development of geriatrics as a specialized field of medicine. The government should invest in building infrastructure for geriatric care in the country, such as establishment of nursing homes, hospices, geriatric clinics, and geriatric wards by public hospitals.
There should also be training programs for health care workers on geriatric care and specialist training for doctors and other healthcare professionals to ensure that quality care is provided.
Nigeria also needs to establish policies that support the provision of geriatric care. Policies should focus on older adults’ healthcare needs, including the implementation of geriatric care guidelines and the development of a national geriatric care plan.
The government should also consider providing funds to support research into geriatrics to improve the understanding of geriatric diseases and interventions.
How to become a medical geriatrics specialist in Nigeria
Specializing in geriatrics in Nigeria requires a specific set of skills and knowledge to provide specialized care to the elderly. Here are the steps to specialize in geriatrics in Nigeria:
1. Medical Education: To specialize in geriatrics, aspirants must obtain the necessary education and training in medicine from any recognized medical school in Nigeria.
2. Residency and Fellowship: After completing medical school, aspiring geriatricians must complete a residency program in Internal Medicine. After completing residency training, a physician can then apply for fellowship training in geriatric medicine, which typically takes one to two years to complete.
3. Certification: After completing a geriatric fellowship, the next step is to obtain certification from the West African College of Physicians. The certification confirms that the doctor has met the necessary requirements and standards to specialize in geriatrics.
4. Continuing education and training: Continuing education and training in geriatrics are essential to ensure that specialists in geriatrics are up-to-date with the latest research, techniques, and technologies. Staying current can also help geriatric specialists to provide comprehensive and high-quality care to their elderly patients.
5. Networking: Geriatricians should join geriatric medicine networks and associations in Nigeria or other countries, to network with colleagues and peers in the field.
6. Experience: Accumulation of experience working with elderly patients.
Specializing in geriatrics requires a combination of education, training, certification, and experience. Residency and fellowship programs in Internal Medicine and geriatrics are available in Nigeria. Aspiring geriatricians must also stay up to date with continuing education and training to provide the best care for their patients.
Top Nigerian universities to specialize in medical geriatrics
Currently, only a few Nigerian universities offer specialization programs in geriatrics. Here are some of them:
1. Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife: The University has an active Geriatrics Medicine Unit under the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Clinical Sciences. This unit was established to handle the healthcare needs of the geriatric population in Nigeria.
The unit offers Postgraduate Diploma in Geriatrics Medicine and Master’s in Geriatrics Medicine.
2. University of Lagos: The University of Lagos has the Geriatrics Department under the Faculty of Clinical Sciences. The Geriatrics unit is responsible for providing geriatric care and research in the treatment of geriatric diseases. The Department offers Masters in Geriatric Medicine.
3. University of Ibadan: The University has a Geriatrics Division under the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Clinical Sciences. The Geriatrics Division focuses on providing not only tertiary care but also community-based care services. The department also offers specialist training in geriatrics for doctors.
4. Bayero University Kano: The University has an active Geriatrics Unit under the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Clinical Sciences. The Geriatric Unit offers training programs for doctors and offers masters in Geriatric Medicine.
5. University of Nigeria Nsukka: The University established a Geriatrics Medicine unit under the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences. This unit offers courses in geriatric care and research and offers intermediate certificates, Postgraduate Diploma in Geriatrics Medicine, and a Masters in Geriatrics Medicine.
The above-listed Nigerian universities offer specialized training in geriatrics medicine, comprising of postgraduate diploma, intermediate certificates, and master’s programs to prepare physicians to provide geriatric care to the elderly population and advancing the care of older adults.
Career prospects for medical geriatrics in Nigeria
The field of geriatrics medicine in Nigeria has a bright prospect for growth. As Nigeria is witnessing a demographic shift with more elderly individuals, there are greater opportunities for geriatrics specialists to provide quality care.
Below are some of the career prospects for geriatrics specialists in Nigeria:
1. Providing specialized patient care: A geriatrics specialist will have the opportunity to specialize in patient care of the elderly population to meet their unique needs. Geriatricians may work in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, or run a private clinic, aiming to provide specialized treatment and medication to elderly patients to promote wellness.
2. Research and Development: Geriatrics specialists and research teams evaluate treatment and care protocols based on the most recent studies. Geriatrics specialists can collaborate with public and private entities to research and develop new interventions to serve the elderly population.
3. Raising Awareness: Geriatric specialists are in a position to raise awareness of the importance of geriatric care, helping people to understand the unique care needs of the elderly population. They can participate in creating education materials or public health campaigns that target the elderly population and their caretakers.
4. Advocacy and public policy: Geriatric specialists who develop specialized knowledge of geriatric medicine may be interested in advocating for better policies for the elderly population. Advocacy can help to influence public policy decisions that affect the elderly in the Nigerian Society.
5. Academics: Universities, Colleges and other institutions in Nigeria are in need of lecturers who specialized in the field of Geriatrics. As a geriatric specialist, one can take a teaching position/role to teach students the specialized skills in geriatric care.
The field of geriatrics offers immense career opportunities in Nigeria. Geriatric specialists are poised to make a significant impact on the health and well-being of the elderly population while fostering quality of care.
Why chose geriatrics as a career path in Nigeria
Choosing geriatrics as a career path in Nigeria has numerous advantages, especially as a response to the country’s changing demographics. Here are some reasons why geriatrics is an excellent career path in Nigeria:
1. Increasing demand: As Nigeria’s population continues to age, the demand for geriatric care is only expected to increase. The elderly population presents unique health challenges which geriatrics specialists are uniquely positioned to address.
2. Career Growth Opportunities: Nigeria’s health sector is constantly evolving. Therefore, the need for geriatrics specialists is expected to increase. As healthcare institutions evolve to meet the needs of the ageing population, geriatrics specialists will likely have opportunities that allow them to advance their careers.
3. High Job Satisfaction: Many geriatrics specialists feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that they are making a significant impact on the lives of elderly patients. Specializing in geriatrics means that you would be helping to provide care and support for this vulnerable population.
4. Competitive remuneration: Geriatric specialists receive competitive salaries that reflect their training and expertise, as well as benefits packages that help them achieve work-life balance.
5. Diverse work environment: Geriatrics is a multidisciplinary field that requires examining the human body’s various aspects, from the biological, social, behavioral and psychologic aspects. A Geriatric specialist will have opportunities to work in various environments, ranging from hospitals, nursing homes, hospice care and so on.
6. Greater appreciation for the elderly: Specializing in geriatrics requires interaction with the elderly often, allowing healthcare professionals to appreciate the wisdom and contributions of the elderly in society.
Choosing geriatrics as a career path in Nigeria can be rewarding. It is a growing field with an increasing demand for specialists who are willing to provide care and support to the ageing population. It offers diverse work environments, career growth opportunities, high job satisfaction, and competitive remuneration.
As Nigeria’s population continues to age, the need for skilled geriatric professionals will increase. The government should, therefore, prioritize the development of the field of geriatric medicine to provide quality care to the elderly population.
Investment in infrastructure, personnel, training, and policies to support geriatric care is crucial to ensure that the elderly receive the care they need and deserve. It’s high time Nigeria started investing in geriatrics to keep up with the aging world.