Exposure to primary healthcare for medical students: experiences of final-year medical students
Introduction: Recognising the importance of primary healthcare in the achievement of the 1997 White Paper for the Transformation of the Health System and the Millennium Development Goals, the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of the Witwatersrand introduced an integrated primary care (IPC) block. In a six-week final year preceptorship, medical
students are placed in primary healthcare centres in rural and underserved areas. This article describes the experiences of medical students during their six weeks in the IPC block.
Methods: The study was qualitative, based on data collected from the logbooks completed by the students during the IPC rotation. A total of 192 students were placed in 10 health centres in the North West and Gauteng provinces in the 2006 academic year. These centres included district hospitals, clinics and NGO community health centres.
Results: The students reported that the practical experience enhanced their skills in handling patients in primary care settings. They developed an appreciation of primary healthcare as a holistic approach to healthcare. The students attained increased levels of confidence in handling undifferentiated patients, and became more aware of community health needs and problems in health service delivery.
Conclusions: Exposure to the IPC block provided a valuable experience for final-year students, as it is critical for orienting students to the importance of primary healthcare, which is essential for the realisation of targets identified in the national health policy.
Keywords: primary heath care; skills; practice; medical students