Planning to study medicine? Beware, this degree won’t make you a doctor
3 weeks ago, 09:07
Ruth Waruguru Wanjohi had an instatiable desire to one day become medical doctor. But that dream took a hit when she missed the required cut off marks needed to study for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) at the university as a regular student.
With her options thinning, the only other choice was to undertake the course under the module II programme. But at Sh500, 000 per year, this was not an option. She had to scratch her head together with her family for some something; anything equally gratifying.
Hundreds of kilometres away in Likoni, Naima Muia Namai too had a dream of studying medicine. Ruth and Naima, although worlds apart, were brought together by this single dream
Determined to grant their wishes, their families went on a mission; combing, asking around and even sifting through papers for an alternative course; something that would bring equal joy to the hearts of these two girls who had passed their KCSE exams.
With their qualifications, Ruth and Naima would have opted to study Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Pharmacy or Dentistry. Other alternatives would have been a diploma in nursing, pharmaceutical technology, laboratory technology among others. But determined to land their dream course, they decided to study clinical medicine. They were wrong as they would soon find out.
Where it all started
Kenya embarked on training Bachelor of Science in Clinical Medicine and Community Health in 2009; a degree course for clinical officers. However, the clinical officers’ training in Kenya dates back to the 1920s during the colonial era.
“The black man (Africans) could not be trained as doctors then,” says Prof. Lukoye Atwoli, Dean Moi University School of Medicine. “Only the whites and later Indians could become doctors. Africans were trained as clinical officers to assist the doctor who was white.”
Some physicians then, were concerned that training of such personnel would result in ‘professional dilution’, and hence their reference to this cadre as sub-assistant surgeon, sub-dispensary attendant, senior native medical assistant among others.
This is what is termed as non-physician clinicians, a notable example being in the west, where they are an equivalent of physician assistants in the health system. In the USA, more than 300,000 non-physician clinicians practice alongside physicians.
The British trained apothecaries, who dispensed medicines and often assumed additional clinical duties. Health workers known as dressers and dispensers were trained to provide basic surgical and medical care. The non-physician clinicians are known as clinical officers, health officers, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, or nurse clinicians with different roles depending on the countries that they are in.
The Kenyan cadre of Clinical Officer is broadly in two categories, that of general COs (RCOs) and specialist COs (SCOs). Specialist COs are those that have undertaken further training in a medical field, usually a higher diploma, like in anaesthesia, ophthalmology, ENT, Reproductive Health, etc. COs are regulated by the Clinical Officers Council, an institution mandated under the Clinical Officers Act, CAP 260 to oversee their training, registration and licensing in Kenya.
In Kenya though, the clinical ...
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