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Original Research

Student perspectives on the value of rural electives

Ian Couper

African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine; Vol 7, No 1 (2015), 8 pages. doi: 10.4102/phcfm.v7i1.752

Submitted: 01 August 2014
Published:  26 June 2015


Background: Medical students in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg have the opportunity to do electives at the end of the first and third years of a four-year graduate-entry medical programme. Upon their return they are required to write a short portfolio report. Over the period 2005 to 2011, 402 students chose to do rural electives.

Aim and setting: To understand the value of rural electives from the perspective of medical students in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits, as derived from their assessment reports.

Methods: A review was conducted of 402 elective reports. Common themes were identified through repeated reading of the reports, and then content analysis was undertaken using these themes.

Results: Major themes identified were the reasons for choosing a rural facility for the elective, including going to a home community; benefits of the elective, especially in terms of clinical skills and personal growth; relationship issues; the multiple roles of the rural doctor, who is often a role model working in difficult conditions; and the challenges of rural electives.

Conclusion: The electives were overwhelmingly positive and affirming experiences for students, who developed clinical skills and also learnt about both themselves and their chosen career.

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Author affiliations

Ian Couper, Centre for Rural Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


electives; medical students; undergraduate; training; clinical skills; district hospitals


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ISSN: 2071-2928 (print) | ISSN: 2071-2936 (online)

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