Opinion Paper

Re-imagining health professions education in the coronavirus disease 2019 era: Perspectives from South Africa

Anna M.S. Schmutz, Louis S. Jenkins, Francois Coetzee, Hofmeyr Conradie, James Irlam, Elizabeth M. Joubert, Dianne Matthews, Susan C. van Schalkwyk
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 13, No 1 | a2948 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v13i1.2948 | © 2021 Anna M.S. Schmutz, Louis S. Jenkins, Francois Coetzee, Hofmeyr Conradie, James Irlam, Elizabeth M. Joubert, Dianne Matthews, Susan C. van Schalkwyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 February 2021 | Published: 10 August 2021

About the author(s)

Anna M.S. Schmutz, Division of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Louis S. Jenkins, Department of Family and Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Directorate of Primary Health Care, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Department of Family and Emergency Medicine, Western Cape Department of Health, George Regional Hospital, George, South Africa
Francois Coetzee, Ukwanda Centre for Rural Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Hofmeyr Conradie, Ukwanda Centre for Rural Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
James Irlam, Directorate of Primary Health Care, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Elizabeth M. Joubert, Ukwanda Centre for Rural Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Division of Human Nutrition, Department of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Dianne Matthews, Division of Family Medicine, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Susan C. van Schalkwyk, Centre for Health Professions Education, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic hit South Africa in March 2020, severely disrupting health services and health education. This fundamentally impacted the training of future health professionals and catalysed a significant response from across the health education sector. In 2020, the South African Association of Health Educationalists requested members to submit reflections on different aspects of their COVID-19 related educational responses.

Responding to the pandemic: Seven vignettes focused specifically on clinical training in the context of primary care and family medicine. This short report highlights the key insights that emerged from these vignettes, considering what has been learnt in terms of health professions education and what we need to take forward. These insights include building on what was already in place, the student role, technology in the clinical learning context, taking workshops online, vulnerability and presence and the way going forward.

Discussion and conclusion: The contributions emphasised the value of existing relationships between the health services and training institutions, collaboration and transparent communication between stakeholders when navigating a crisis, responsiveness to the changed platform and dynamic environment and aligning teaching with healthcare needs. It is more important than ever to set explicit goals, have clarity of purpose when designing learning opportunities and to provide support to students. Some of these learning points may be appropriate for similar contexts in Africa. How we inculcate what we have learned into the post-pandemic period will bear testimony to the extent to which this crisis has enabled us to re-imagine health professions education.


Keywords

COVID-19; health professions education; primary health; responsiveness; remote teaching; clinical training

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