oa South African Family Practice - Review of final-year medical students' rural attachment at district hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal : student perspectives : original research

Volume 56, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2078-6190
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6204



This study aimed to investigate the views of students involved in rural community-based medical attachments during their final year at medical school. The programme has been in existence for some time, but no formal evaluation thereof has yet taken place. This paper describes the first two phases of what is described as a quality improvement project: namely to describe the problem state and to discuss possible activities to improve the programme.

The study adopted a mixture of quantitative and qualitative type research. Data were collected by means of a self-administered questionnaire which students at Nelson R Mandela Medical School, University of KwaZulu-Natal, completed at the end of their Family Medicine rotation. Consent was obtained from the participants and ethical approval granted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Humanities and Social Science Ethics Committee.
Students were generally positive about their rural attachment experience. The majority (86%) believed that their skills adequately prepared them to enter the community. Allocation of a supervisor and rostering were found to be of great importance. Academic activities provided adequate learning opportunities. The majority (76%) of students who used hospital accommodation found it to be satisfactory, although it was an area that needed attention. Technological support was lacking. Fewer than 50% of students had access to such facilities.
Students' responses were generally positive about the rural attachment experience, but logistical and technological support issues, as well as that of accommodation, need to be addressed if the programme is to flourish. Community-based education in a rural district hospital can provide unique learning opportunities for students if the opportunities are identified and the programme is well managed.

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