Investigating competencies needed by European-trained doctors in rural South African hospitals

Afr J Prim Health Care Fam Med. 2020 Aug 25;12(1):e1-e7. doi: 10.4102/phcfm.v12i1.2322.


Background: Many European-trained doctors (ETDs) recruited to work in rural district hospitals in South Africa have insufficient generalist competencies for the range of practice required. Africa Health Placements recruits ETDs to work in rural hospitals in Africa. Many of these doctors feel inadequately prepared. The Stellenbosch University Ukwanda Centre for Rural Health is launching a Postgraduate Diploma in Rural Medicine to help prepare doctors for such work.

Aim: To determine the competencies gap for ETDs working in rural district hospitals in South Africa to inform the curriculum of the PG Dip (Rural Medicine).

Setting: Rural district hospitals in South Africa.

Methods: Nine hospitals in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga were purposefully selected by Africa Health Placements as receiving ETDs. An online survey was developed asking about the most important competencies and weaknesses for ETDs when working rurally. The clinical manager and any ETDs currently working in each hospital were invited to complete the survey.

Results: Surveys were completed by 19 ETDs and five clinical managers. The top clinical competencies in relation to 10 specific domains were identified. The results also indicate broader competencies required, specific skills gaps, the strengths that ETDs bring to South Africa and how ETDs prepare themselves for working in this context.

Conclusion: This study identifies the important competency gaps among ETDs and provides useful direction for the diploma and other future training initiatives. The diploma faculty must reflect on these findings and ensure the curriculum is aligned with these gaps.

Keywords: European-trained doctors; clinical skills; competencies; foreign-qualified doctors; medical education; rural medicine.