My experience as a Medical Doctor that relocated to the UK from Nigeria – Dr Katung

I have suppressed the urge to write on my experience as a medical doctor relocated to the UK from Nigeria over two years ago.

It was long time coming, meticulously planned, and capital intensive(by Nigeria purchasing power standards)

Many young doctors are leaving in droves. Not minding what lies ahead, just a dream and the need for self improvement and better living.

I was lucky to have completed a 7-year gruelling residency program in obstetrics and gynaecology. Armed with the status of been addressed as a consultant. Earning a ‘fat salary’( again by Nigerian purchasing standards) with better working hours (major perk).

Yet disposed all I had, boarded a one-way flight to Heathrow with nothing but a small box with some few days change of clothes and a debit card I hope keeps delivering my small change at the ATM.

Was it easy? No. Some days I felt I had made a very risky choice. What if I don’t like it here? How will I start again? How will I adjust from being at the almost at the top of the medical food chain to being a novice in a new environment? No more “Chief”

In the end I learnt valuable lessons which might apply to anyone thinking of same.

1. Play the long ball. Don’t follow the crowd with their knee-jerk reflexes. Be intentional about what you want and how you intend to achieve it. Have a two year relocation plan.

2. If you are almost through with your specialty training, FINISH IT first. You always need a plan B incase your permutations don’t work. Or you get bored. Or you decide to come back home.

3. Save money and Spend money.

Confusing? To get money( better pay) you have to spend on exams, courses, workshops, books, travel etc. To spend this money, you have to save it first. If you are single, better for you. Marriage comes with responsibilities you can’t shirk.

If you are a specialist or in specialty training, utilise your advantage. Use the MTI route. That way, you avoid having to write PLAB and it’s intensive cost. You also get to have access to training, courses and Royal college exam sponsorship while in U.K borne by your employer.

Medical Doctor that relocated to the UK from Nigeria
Practicing medicine in the UK as a Nigerian doctor
Credit: BBC

4. Be flexible in practice here. Most of what you were taught in medical school back home are obsolete and have undergone evidenced based modification over and over again. P.S sad to inform you, that your Prof is not an authority and guru as you thought.

5. Don’t just work and work: U.K. practice is a data mine. WRITE PAPERS. Start with audits, then case reports. You can do small randomised trials. Build a portfolio. You will need it going forward.

6. Last but not least. This is very important. Anytime you feel the urge to abandon ship and go back home, buy a return ticket( RETURN) and go visit your village people back home. See them. When your brain resets, resume work as soon as possible.

READ ALSO: Steps, Preparation and cost of IELTS and PLAB exams in Nigeria

PS: This reset process is so quick so you don’t need to spend much time. From the airport to within 24 hours you begin to question your decision. After a week, you are sure you want to go back. So make your return ticket +\- two weeks.

While to be able to pay bills and afford luxury is key, our work as doctors must not always be tied to £ and $. Sometimes, to be able to drive safely at night, sleep with eyes closed and not be worried about basic things is enough.


Godfrey K. Katung

(Practicing Doctor in the UK)


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