Spotlight on Health Care Graduates From Rural Areas
A study aimed at understanding the educational experiences of health care graduates from rural areas has been completed by Dr Andrew Ross of UKZN’s Department of Family Medicine in the School of Nursing and Public Health.
Ross believes such students deserve special support, training and development.
The study titled: “The Learning Experiences of Rural Origin Health Care Professionals at Institutions of Higher Learning”, examined significant events in the lives of pharmacists, doctors, physiotherapists and clinical psychologists.
Said Ross: ‘The crisis in formal school education in South Africa has meant that rural students with the capacity to pursue a career in healthcare are the least likely to access the necessary training at institutes of higher learning (IHL). Throughput is relatively low in South African IHL and is determined by a range of learning experiences.’
According to Ross, insight into the lives of rural origin health care professionals (HCPs) has the potential to inform the training of those of rural origin.
During the study, graduates shared challenging experiences they faced such as lack of funding at home, poorly motivated teachers, inadequate preparation for going to university, and how they took responsibility for their own learning, making use of available resources.
Ross said motivation to return to work in rural areas included a commitment to go back, wanting to improve services, being close to home and being able to provide support to their families.
He said the research highlighted the potential of rural origin students and the importance of ensuring they were able to participate in postgraduate training.
‘Rural students have potential and should have opportunities to participate in post graduate training programmes. Innovative means need to be considered as to how to recruit rural students and how to encourage social and academic engagement so that rural origin students succeed.’
Research was done through interviews with six rural origin health care professionals and using a range of arts-based methods to create a reconstructed story of a HCP currently working in a rural context.
Ross believes that more rural origin students will lead to more rural based health care professionals which will impact on health care in rural areas.
Ross is currently writing two papers and finishing his thesis. He is also working with his registrars on the profile of patients admitted to Ngwelelzana Hospital following parasuicide attempts as well as the profile and outcome of patients admitted to the high care unit at Northdale Hospital, and sexual dysfunction in HIV positive men undergoing antiretroviral therapy.