Nationwide, health care students from nurses to physiotherapists are gearing up to submit their preferences for their community service placements. As a self-elected chairman of the UWC RURAL HEALTHCARE CLUB, I have compiled 101(jokes only 10) reasons of why students should choose rural.
Why chose a rural posts for community service? In short, if you don’t do this now, you probably never will.
During their final year, health care students are asked to submit their top five preferred districts for community service placement to the National Department of Health. The National Department of Health then assigns students a community service posting, usually within these top five choices.
Completion of community service is a requirement for health care workers wishing to practice in South Africa
1 . You will love it. Not immediately, and definitely not consistently, but undeniably. Rural healthcare is unique in many ways, and experiences will no doubt differ from one institution to the next but the unifying factor, is that it is more gratifying, more challenging and more inspiring than anything you would’ve experienced during your community service.
2. You will go on great adventures in parts of our wonderful country that you may have otherwise never explored. For me, I plan to be more inland than the coastal line not because I am afraid of tsunamis, but because I know many of us will probably choose placements along the coast. My kind of fun will include starting my own organic garden and finally go vegan as I have always wanted. I won’t mention my mountain biking mini trips and ofcoarse occasional trips to and weekend trips to the north coast. For you it may be hikes in great mountains, wine-tasting or surfing.
“At rural hospitals, you will likely be running the whole departments, and with a little perseverance you can literally make the changes you want to see.”
3. You will have more time on your hands than during community service. Even the poorly staffed rural hospitals you will have some time to be yourself and do things that are not work.
4. You can use your free time to start studying for primaries, or indulge in other interests you may have. For me, it`s going to be an accounting degree via UNISA, for you it may be your Masters in Public Health, Sports-physio, Law or even Music.
5. You will meet people from all around the world and they will become your lifelong friends. Many rural hospitals in South Africa are staffed with forein doctors and clinicians, these rebels and misfits know how to suck marrow our of life, there won`t be dull moments.
These young foreign professionals give a year or more of their lives to work in Africa, and are – in my opinion at least – superb human beings.They are kind, caring, enthusiastic and full of life. You will learn from them too, not only about different countries and cultures, but also different ways of practicing the same art.
6. You will appreciate your skills. You won’t be supervised as much as you would like but you will learn a lot from this. Having to make your own decisions is daunting, but it is also very rewarding, especially when you start making the right decisions and seeing the positive results. In time you will realise that, despite what you may think, your years of studying is on a par with global standards, and this will give you a great deal of self-confidence.
7. The pay is good and living costs are low. You will receive a minimum of 18 and maximum or 22 percent increase on your salary for practicing in a remote area. If you live in doctors’ or nurses quarters, rent is R200 a month, amenities included. You can walk to work, so petrol or transport expenses are kept to a minimum. This allows you to put aside some saving for travel, family or dreams.
“ You will get to know your patients and their families, and see the difference you make in their lives. I can’t think of anything that is more satisfying than this”
8. You can be an agent of change. All those things that frustrate us about working in CHCs – lazy qualified physios, incompetent nurses, useless Stats that no one ever reads? At rural hospitals, you will likely be running your own departments, and with a little perseverance you can literally make the changes you want to see.
9. You will immernse yourself in the community that you are serving. People will recognise you at the Shoprite, or let you jump the queue for the ATM. You will get to know your patients and their families, and see the difference you make in their lives. I can’t think of anything that is more satisfying than this.
Your home, be it Johannesburg or Cape Town or Pretoria, won’t disappear. In fact, it won’t change much at all while you are gone. Instead, you will be the one that is changing, and when you return for weekends or short breaks from time to time, you will revel in the comforts of home. You will appreciate the things you took for granted: running water, 24-hour-Woolworths and medium-rare steak.
10. If you don’t do this now, you probably never will. You can work in just about any tiny corner of this beautiful country! It’s easier than you think. Do it, you will love it!