Original Research

Factors influencing choice of site for rural clinical placements by final year medical students in a South African university

Nontsikelelo O. Mapukata, Rainy Dube, Ian Couper, Motlatso G. Mlambo
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 9, No 1 | a1226 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v9i1.1226 | © 2017 Nontsikelelo O. Mapukata, Rainy Dube, Ian Couper, Motlatso G. Mlambo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 June 2016 | Published: 28 April 2017

About the author(s)

Nontsikelelo O. Mapukata, Centre for Rural Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Rainy Dube, Centre for Rural Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Ian Couper, Ukwanda Centre for Rural Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Motlatso G. Mlambo, Centre for Rural Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Most of South Africa’s citizens who live in rural or underserved communities rely on the public health care sector to access quality health care. The value of rural exposure through clinical placements is well documented. Medical schools in South Africa have a responsibility to provide solutions that address the prevailing human resources challenges. Despite this commitment, medical students do not necessarily appreciate their role in resolving South Africa’s human resources challenges. This study aimed to assess the factors that influenced the choice of clinical learning sites in a self-selection process undertaken by Wits final year medical students for the compulsory 6-week integrated primary care block rotation.
Methods: Qualitative data related to reasons for choice of service learning site were gathered from 524 pre-placement questionnaires completed by final year medical students entering the rotation over a 3-year period (2012–2014). Thematic analysis was performed using the MAXQDA software.
Results: Eight themes emerged from the study indicating that the majority of participants were in favour of local urban underserved placement. Contextual factors, such as work commitments or family responsibilities, being compromised socially and losing academic standing were the main reasons for seeking urban placement. Good supervision, opportunistic learning, skills development and moral support were reasons for seeking rural placements. Previous voluntary exposure to rural practice or being of rural origin was a strong indicator for uptake of rural placement.
Conclusion: This study has demonstrated the challenges faced by coordinators in balancing personal and institutional needs with country needs and the contextual factors that must be considered when implementing medical education programmes that respond to social challenges.

Keywords

rural clinical placements; medical students; academic learning

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Crossref Citations

1. Student and preceptor perceptions of primary health care clinical placements during pre-service education: Qualitative results from a quasi-experimental study
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