DOI: 10.1200/go.23.00257 ISSN: 2687-8941

Brain Drain in Cancer Care: The Shrinking Clinical Oncology Workforce in Nigeria

Runcie C.W. Chidebe, Tochukwu C. Orjiakor, Nwamaka Lasebikan, Adedayo Joseph, Samantha Toland, Alison Simons
  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


A recent estimate indicates that Nigeria has about 70 clinical oncologists (COs) providing care for 124,815 patients with cancer and its 213 million total population. This staggering deficit is likely to worsen as about 90% of Nigerian physicians are eager to leave the country for perceived greener pastures in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, etc. Previous studies have examined general physician migration abroad; however, the CO workforce in Nigeria has been barely considered in the workforce literature. This study examined the push and pull factors to stay or leave the CO workforce and Nigeria.


Using a correlational design, 64 COs completed turnover intention (TI), workload, and satisfaction measures. Multiple linear regression was used for the data analysis.


The results show that CO workload (number of outpatients attended to; r = 0.30, P < .01) and satisfaction with the delivery of CO care ( r = 0.23, P < .05) were significantly related to TI. The number of outpatients seen was also positively linked to TI. Hence, the more outpatients a CO sees, the higher the intention to leave. The United States (31%), the United Kingdom (30%), and Canada (10%) were the top countries of destinations for Nigerian COs.


Higher CO workload is a push factor propelling the intention to leave CO practice and relocate to other countries. Nigeria's new National Cancer Control Plan and the Federal Ministry of Health need to explore innovative approaches to attract and retain the CO workforce, which would lead to improvement in cancer survival and outcomes. Increasing the number of CO programs and positions available, improving work conditions, and introducing work benefits may mitigate the shrinking CO workforce in Nigeria.

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