Differences between residency and housemanship for doctors

There are clear differences between residency and housemanship for doctors. As you go through medical school till you become a consultant in your field of study in medicine and surgery, there are hierarchies you have to pass through. Each stage or ranking of doctors comes with their title and also with experience. Hence a doctor that is lower in the ranking or hierarchy would have less experience, expertise, and also lower earnings compared to those with much experience. Therefore, below are the differences between residency and housemanship for doctors.

Difference between residency and house-manship for doctors

  1. Residency is a period of training of medical doctors after graduating from housemanship; whereas Housemanship (or internship) is a period of training for newly graduated medical doctors who have just finished medical school (which could be the university or college of medicine and surgery).
  2. A doctor undergoing residency is called a Resident doctor or simply “Resident“; while a doctor undergoing housemanship is called a House Officer or Houseman.
  3. The residency trains a doctor to become a consultant; a consultant is the highest rank that doctors can be in their training; a consultant is a specialist in a specific field of medicine or surgery and therefore is an authority in the chosen field. Consultants can be professors or Heads of Departments (HOD) in a teaching hospital but you can also be a consultant in medicine or surgery or any specific medical field without necessarily teaching. Hence, the residency program aims to make you a consultant in a specific aspect, field, or specialty of medical practice.
  4. Housemanship trains a newly graduated doctor to become confident in the handling of life-saving emergencies and knowing how to stabilize a patient before the senior doctors (residents or consultants) take over the management of the patient.
  5. The period of residency is longer than the period of housemanship. Residency can last for 4 to 6 years whereas housemanship last often for 1 year.
  6. In the residency, you choose a specialty in which you want to specialize in; then you write the first post-graduate medical exam, known as Primary in that specialty. The primary medical examination is a screening exam that qualifies you to start residency in a specific field of medical practice. If you change your mind and would want to change to another field, you have to start all over again and write the primary exam in that new field of study. In medical practice, you cannot just switch from one field to another (you must be trained). For example, a cardiologist cannot just switch to a pulmonologist, simply because he is a doctor; it doesn’t work that way.
  7. In housemanship, the house officer rotates or gets posted to different departments or specialties to have basic knowledge and management of common emergencies in these specialties.

Similarities of Residency and Housemanship

  1. Both are medical doctors in training
  2. Residency and housemanship are all types of Internship programs that aim to equip the inexperienced doctor with more skills as they grow to become specialists in their field of interest in medicine or surgery or any related field.
  3. None are allowed to practice medicine or surgery without supervision. Whether you are a senior resident or house officer, you must be supervised by a consultant. Your license as a resident doctor or house officer does not allow practicing without supervision.
  4. In most countries, both are paid; house officers and resident doctors are mostly paid internship programs because of the lengthy period a medical student has to undergo in medical school and continue another lengthy period of training in residency before becoming a consultant. If they were not paid, the morale or zeal for study would be low and there would be a shortage of medical doctors who are already scarce especially in developing countries.


In the residency, a resident doctor is committed to practicing in a specific specialty, even though in the course of the residency training, the doctor has to be posted to some departments or areas that may be related to his chosen field. For example, a resident doctor of Neurosurgery can be posted to Plastic surgery for some months in order to learn some related medical cases and the management of such cases before coming back to continue in Neurosurgery.

This rotation of medical residents is common in most specialties that may co-manage related medical cases or diseases.

There are some examinations that must be written in the course of residency in order to qualify the resident to the next rank. Therefore, apart from the primary exam, in Nigerian, the junior resident doctor needs to write another exam, known as Part 1 in order to become a senior resident; while the senior resident needs to write Part 2 exam in order to become a consultant.

Failure to pass these exams means you become stagnant and cannot qualify to become a consultant (specialist) in that field of medicine.


In Nigeria, housemanship last for a period of 1 year, and after that is the National Youth Service (NYSC). No exam is written during housemanship but assessment is made and graded by senior doctors (residents and consultants) before you complete the program and proceed for NYSC or Residency.

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