Original Research

Undergraduate students’ choices around community service and internship: A single faculty study

Heather Talberg, Tamara Dayaram, Sarah Geel, Sivuyile Mthembu, Rofhiwa Nthangeni, Savannah Pillay, Theresa L. Burgess
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 80, No 1 | a1980 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp.v80i1.1980 | © 2024 Heather Talberg, Tamara Dayaram, Sarah Geel, Sivuyile Mthembu, Rofhiwa Nthangeni, Savannah Pillay, Theresa L. Burgess | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 August 2023 | Published: 29 April 2024

About the author(s)

Heather Talberg, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Tamara Dayaram, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Sarah Geel, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Sivuyile Mthembu, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Rofhiwa Nthangeni, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Savannah Pillay, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Theresa L. Burgess, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Centre for Medical Ethics and Law, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Abstract

Background: The Internship and Community Service Programme (ICSP) places newly graduated health professionals for a compulsory training period. Universities adopt multiple strategies to encourage students to select rural placements for ICSP.

Objectives: This study describes ICSP choices among final-year MBChB and Health and Rehabilitation Science students at a South African university and the factors influencing their decisions.

Method: A cross-sectional qualitative descriptive study was conducted using a self-developed online questionnaire. Eighty-five final-year students were recruited.

Results: Most respondents (n = 38, 45.8%) chose the Western Cape (WC) as their first choice placement. There was a significant difference between MBChB and other health science students’ choice of level of healthcare (χ = 10.39, p = 0.006), with MBChB less likely to choose primary healthcare (PHC) level placements. District and tertiary care options were perceived as better sites for learning and practice, while PHC and rural sites, considered underresourced and understaffed, were avoided. Although MBChB students indicated a lower preference for rural placements, this was not significant.

Factors influencing ICSP application decisions included professional support, work environment, and social and personal considerations.

Conclusion: Students’ placement choices were based on their perceptions of clinical exposure, learning opportunities, mentorship and supervision. Placements closer to home were preferred. UG clinical exposure and rural background seem to have some impact on choice but need further investigation.

Clinical implications: Universities should continue to explore ways to improve students’ readiness for practice in underresourced settings. Improved exposure to rural and PHC sites during training could encourage better uptake during ICSP placement.

 


Keywords

undergraduate training; internship; community service; professional support; MBChB; health and rehabilitation

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education

Metrics

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