Original Research

Opinions of South African optometry students about working in rural areas after graduation

Khathutshelo P. Mashige, Olalekan A. Oduntan, Rekha Hansraj
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 7, No 1 | a799 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v7i1.799 | © 2015 Khathutshelo P. Mashige, Olalekan A. Oduntan, Rekha Hansraj | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 November 2014 | Published: 31 July 2015

About the author(s)

Khathutshelo P. Mashige, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Olalekan A. Oduntan, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Rekha Hansraj, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Eye and vision problems have been reported to be more prevalent in rural than urban areas; and a large proportion of South Africans live in the rural areas.

Aim: To investigate the opinions of South African optometry students about working in rural areas after completion of their training and to identify factors that may influence theirdecisions.

Method: This was a cross-sectional quantitative study using a survey instrument containing both closed and open-ended, semi-structured questions.

Results: Four hundred and thirty-eight students responded to the questionnaire (85.4% response rate). Overall, many of the respondents did not want to open their first (66%) or second practices (64.6%) in the rural areas. However, most respondents from rural backgrounds reported that they would open their first (77.2%) or second (79.4%) practice in the rural areas. The main reasons cited by the respondents for their unwillingness to work in the rural areaswere financial concerns (81.2%), personal safety (80.1%) and poor living conditions (75.3%), with a significantly higher number (p < 0.05) being from urban respondents for the latter twoissues only.

Conclusion: Many students were not in favour of opening practices in rural areas, but were willing to work for the government or a non-governmental organisation after graduation. Efforts should be made to address financial incentives, safety and living conditions in the rural areas. The results of this study have implications for the future of availability and accessibility of eye care services to those living in the rural and remoteareas of the country.


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