oa African Journal of Health Professions Education - Career and practice intentions of health science students at three South African health science faculties : research



The distribution and accessibility of healthcare professionals as well as the quality of healthcare services are significantly affected by the career choices of medical and other health science graduates.

While much has been reported on the career intentions of medical students, little is known about those of their counterparts in the health sciences. This study describes the career plans of non-medical health science students at three South African health science faculties, and identifies some key motivating factors.
A self-administered survey of first- and final-year health science students was conducted at the health science faculties of the universities of Cape Town, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. All data were entered into EpiData software and exported for analysis using IBM SPSS Statistics 19.0.
The overall response rate was 47% (=816). Over half of all respondents (57%, =467) intended to work after completing their undergraduate studies, 38% (=177) of these in a rural area. The most popular choices were private hospitals (58%, =273), tertiary hospitals (53%, =249) and private practices (51%, =249). Thirty-two per cent (=258) of respondents intended to further their studies. Just over half of all respondents intended to work in another country (51%, =418), primarily motivated by career development, financial reasons and job opportunities.
The findings demonstrate that health science students, similar to medical students, are influenced by a multitude of factors in making career choices. This emphasises the relevance to all health science disciplines of national strategies to address the mal-distribution of healthcare professionals.


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