Fifth-year medical students’ perspectives on rural training in Botswana: A qualitative approach
Background. The curriculum of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Botswana includes rural community exposure for students throughout their 5 years of training. In addition to community exposure during the first 2 years, students complete 16 weeks of family medicine and 8 weeks of public health medicine. However, as a new faculty, students’ experiences and perceptions regarding rural clinical training are not yet known.
Objective. To describe the experiences and perceptions of the 5th-year medical students during their rural training and solicit their recommendations for improvement.
Methods. This qualitative study used face-to-face interviews with 5th-year undergraduate medical students (N=36) at the end of their family medicine rotation in Mahalapye and Maun villages. We used a phenomenological paradigm to underpin the study. Voice-recorded interviews were transcribed and analysed using Atlas TI version 7 software (USA).
Results. Three main themes were identified: (i) experiences and perceptions of the rural training environment; (ii) perceptions of the staff at rural sites; and (iii) perceptions of clinical benefits and relevance during rural training. While the majority of students perceived rural training as beneficial and valuable, a few felt that learning was compromised by limited resources and processes, such as medical equipment, internet connectivity and inadequate supervision.
Conclusion. While the majority of students perceived rural training as beneficial, students identified limitations in both resources and supervision that need to be improved. Understanding students’ rural training experiences and perceptions can help the Faculty of Medicine, stakeholders and site facilitators to guide future rural training implementation.
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