Career Options for Indian Junior-Doctors

She was half-asleep, when a nurse entered the duty room and announced that a new patient — 69-F had just been brought to the ER ward — complaining of breathlessness and vomiting. The clock read 3.40 am. Dr. Lata had had a rather long day — which had started at 8am on the previous day. After 18+ hours of dabbling with various cases, she had finally stolen some time for a quick nap. She had an OPD starting in 5 hours.

The 26 year old house-man who had completed MBBS just two years back, dragged herself to the ER Ward once again — wondering what lay in future for her career healthcare.”

Dr. Lata is not the only one pondering over this. Thousands of new doctors join India’s medical workforce every year — initially confused about their career prospects and gradually, frustrated with the lack of suitable options. Unreasonably low pay, harsh working conditions, scanty-recognition and to top it all — lack of impartial guidance from superiors in the industry — are just some of the reasons for their gloom. Making them wonder -what is takes to make a respectable living as a medical professional in India.

There are at least a few obvious solutions to this puzzle — none of which looks like a silver bullet.

A. First option is to set up one’s own clinic (and gradually a hospital). But the economics of setting up a clinic does not lead to profitability for a long time. For middle-class doctors that have already amassed huge education-debt to complete graduation, this is further unviable.

B. Next, is a politically correct (or patriotic) answer — ‘Stay in India, pursue a Masters Degree or a bunch of Diplomas / Certifications and serve the people here’. While this appeals at both logical and emotional levels — the road is full of deterrents. The number of PG Seats in India are only 1/3rd of the Bachelors Degree Seats. Quite a few of these seats are filled with astronomical capitation fees. A non-linearly increasing candidate-base vies for the remaining seats. Noble thoughts go for a toss as disappointment and frustration keep amassing over each unsuccessful attempt. As if that is not enough, the lucky ones that land with a PG seat, have tough living conditions due to an ageing higher medical education infrastructure.

C. The other prominent alternative is to practice in other countries with higher demand for doctors. Most such countries do not recognise Indian medical degrees as is. Doctors are hence expected to clear country-specific exams. Some countries also expect clearance of a further course to get a practice-license in that country. Most people are unaware of these specifics.

Let us have a look at some of these options in greater details:

  1. For the ones looking for more respectable income and better work-life balance, USA can be a very compelling option. Exams like USMLE, provide them with a gateway to the American healthcare system — where the standards of practicing medicine and the odds of leading a financially-secured life are much better
  2. UK presents with ample opportunities to practice and work in the European Nations. Clearing exams like MRCP, MRCEM or other membership courses can serve as stepping stone to a practice license in in UK. Other exams such as PLAB can lead you to practice in UK and other countries too.
  3. Countries like Seychelles, Russia and China can help the Indian graduated to practice medicine in their respective countries after passing their basic medicine license exams in respective countries. It is important to notice that even though the quality of work and life are significantly better in these countries for medical professionals, Indian doctors may have trouble re-aligning themselves to the local language an practice-cultures.
  4. Middle East countries are constantly looking for medical graduates with super speciality from India and countries from Indian Sub continent. They provide with very good standards of living, good work and a tax free Income. In the recent past, Gulf countries has seen a huge surge of Doctors applying for various posts in the gulf countries.