Students may undertake electives in a few rural hospitals, through the Division of Rural Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences. The Division has links with hospitals particularly in North West province and Mpumalanga province.
The names of students who have an interest in a rural elective should be submitted to the Elective Office, which will in turn make contact with the Division of Rural Health to arrange details of the placement.
The divisions of Emergency Medicine and Rural Health collaborate in a special rural elective 'package deal'. Students choosing this option will spend 2 weeks doing Emergency Medicine in one of the Johannesburg hospitals, gaining important basic skills to assist them to be more useful in the South African context, before then going out to a rural hospital for 4 weeks.
All the important information given on the website is applicable to rural electives. Some additional important points regarding rural placements are the following:
1. Public transport to rural sites is not easily accessible. It is strongly recommended that students wishing to undertake a rural elective should have a valid international driver?s license and should rent a car for the duration of his/her stay. This would enable you to explore the environment around the hospital you are in. If this is not possible, students will have to arrange their own transport to the hospital; this will not be arranged by the faculty, the division nor the hospital.
2. A minimum of 4 weeks at the rural hospital is required.
3. It is strongly recommended that students plan a few days in Johannesburg for orientation and acclimatization prior to going out to a rural hospital.
4. Rural hospitals are staffed by generalist doctors and primary health care nurses, who are responsible for supervising students on site. There are no specialists in these hospitals. Students will generally work in all sections of the hospital, including casualty (A&E), outpatients department and maternity, and will have the chance to go to outlying clinics. Students are expected to get involved and to contribute to patient care in the hospital, thus clinical skills are essential. A rural hospital is not suitable for students looking to do a discipline-based elective, outside of primary care/family medicine, but will provide good experience in emergency medicine, child health, obstetrics, HIV medicine, and basic surgery.
5. Staffing of rural hospitals is often precarious. Supervisors may not be available at times or may leave before the student arrives. The Division cannot guarantee that the elective will take place as arranged, but alternative plans can be made and students always benefit greatly from the experience.
6. Students are expected to read about the history, geography, culture and language of the area they will be going to, as well as to read about cultural adjustment or culture shock, before they arrive. Some useful articles may be found in the journal Rural and Remote Health at www.rrh.org.au ? in particular search for articles in the series entitled 'rural hospital focus'. We also recommend the book 'Communicating with the African Patient' by Chris Ellis; go to http://www.lastoutpost.info/Books.aspx for more information.
7. Basic accommodation is provided at the hospitals, usually for a small fee and at the student?s own expense.
8. Meals are also usually available through the hospital kitchen at a reasonable rate. Many students prefer to look after themselves in terms of food.
9. Students need to be aware of safety and security issues. Generally rural areas are much safer than Johannesburg but standard precautions are advised. In particular, driving on unfamiliar rural roads at night is not recommended, because animals and pedestrians often present a hazard to unsuspecting international visitors.