Nigeria, the giant of Africa, is a country in West Africa with 36 states and one Federal Capital Territory. The first optometric professional program in Nigeria first started at the University of Benin in 1972; it was established in the faculty of science by the late Dr. Paul Olekanma Ogbuehi. By 1976, the optometry program had their first qualified and licensed professionals in the field. Read on to learn more about optometry in the country, from schooling to licensing.
Optometry is under a joint board known as Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Registration Board of Nigeria (ODORBN). The ODORBON makes rules and regulation that govern optometry as a course and profession. They register, regulate, accredit and license training institutes, universities, and colleges of health technology in Nigeria. Provisional licenses given to newly inducted students are obtained from ODORBN.
2. Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA)
All optometrists in Nigeria are registered with the Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA). The NOA is an association that represents optometrists and other optometric groups in Nigeria. There are 37 chapters of the association that represents each of the states in the country. An optometrist working in a state must be duly registered with the NOA state chapter, attend meetings, and pay dues according to the rules and regulations of the association.
Every year the NOA hosts a conference in a state in Nigeria; all optometrists are expected to attend as this is an opportunity to accumulate Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points.
In Nigeria, there are currently only six universities that award degrees in optometry:
● Abia State University, Uturu, Abia State.
● Bayero University, Kano, Kano State.
● Imo State University, Owerri, Imo State.
● Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State.
● University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State.
● University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Kwara State.
4. Professional program
Optometry is a professional program that requires a minimum of six years of schooling to graduate with a degree in optometry from any of the aforementioned universities. Each university has to undergo accreditation done by the ODORBN board to give the schools the authority to award a Doctorate of Optometry degree to its students.
At the University of Benin, the 6 years are split between classes and industry training. The first and second years of the program are dedicated solely to science courses. The third and fourth years offer courses like forensic optometry and ophthalmic optics among many other hands-on courses. The fifth year of school is divided in two: the first half is composed of more classes and the second half is reserved for a six month externship that leads into the sixth year. Finally, the sixth year of Benin’s optometry program focuses on classes, seminars, and projects.
After successful completion of an accredited optometry program, students are inducted into the profession as optometrists by the board and awarded a provisional license. This provisional license is valid for up to a year and gives them the opportunity to apply to internship opportunities. At this time, there are no board exams that must be taken to qualify for full licensure, but this could change within the next year.
The board hosts a wide range of internship positions at a variety of clinics. Prospective interns can choose from the pool of positions and decide where they would like to carry out their year-long internship before they begin practicing. The internship must be done under the supervision of a currently licensed optometrist. All interns must report their daily activities in a logbook (also provided by the board).
While similar, it’s important that an internship for an optometrist not be mistaken for residency for a medical student. While residencies offer opportunity specializing, an optometry internship is a mandatory part of the licensure process.
7. Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
CPD is a yearly activity organized by the ODORBN consultants and the NOA where optometrists earn points toward their license renewal. To renew an optometry license, an optometrist must have obtained 15 CPD points in a year. CPD points can be obtained in three ways as stated by the ODORBON board (2)
- The NOA conference
- Seminars or workshops conducted by ODORBN’s CPD consultants
- Seminars, workshops, or conferences hosted by any of the Nigerian Colleges of Optometry
8. Optometry vs. ophthalmology
The license of a practicing optometrist in Nigeria covers practice and prescriptive authority but not surgical authority. Instead, all surgical cases are referred to an ophthalmologist.
Even without surgical authority, however, optometrists in Nigeria are able to perform procedures like dilation, irrigation, and foreign body removal. Foreign body removal can be performed by an OD if the object in question has not yet passed the corneal stroma; anything beyond that point, a referral to an ophthalmologist would be required.
9. Optometry jobs
As an optometrist in Nigeria, you can practice the profession by meeting with patients, lecturing, or doing research. Most optometrists will spend their career working in private practice for two main reasons:
- Positions with government hospitals are limited
- Educational opportunities are limited
Optometrists in either government-owned clinics/hospitals and private practices often have fruitful careers, but for new ODs looking to get their careers started, it’s important to jump into the job search. Employers in these settings are primarily done yearly!
10. The future of optometry in Nigeria
As of 2018, there were nearly 4,000 optometrists in Nigeria, 80% of which were in private practice, but that number is growing! Optometry is still quite small in Nigeria, but the future is bright. The coming implementation of board exams will help the profession gain recognition amongst both patients and other healthcare professionals, and we’ll continue to see the value of eyecare grow.