Internship training adequately prepares South African medical graduates for community service – with exceptions

T C Nkabinde, A Ross, S Reid, N M Nkwanyana


Background. The 2-year internship period for medical graduates began in South Africa in 2005 and has never been formally evaluated.

Objective. This study assessed the perceptions of community service medical officers (COSMOs) working at district hospitals (DHs) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) to determine whether the 2-year internship programme had adequately prepared them for community service (CS).

Method. A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted regarding the perceptions of COSMOs working at 22 district hospitals in KZN. Data were collected in July 2012, using a questionnaire based on the core skills and knowledge detailed in the Health Professions Council of South Africa intern log book. All eight domains were self-assessed and a score of 4 out of 5 indicated an ability to work independently.

Results. Of the COSMOs, 78% (60 out of 89) completed the questionnaire. Most felt well-prepared for CS in all disciplines, but critical gaps in knowledge and skills were identified in paediatrics, orthopaedics, anaesthetics and obstetrics. In addition, 75% of respondents (45 out of 60) expressed a need for additional training in the disciplines of ear, nose and throat (ENT), urology, ophthalmology and dermatology.

Conclusion. The 2-year internship has provided the basis for independent medical practice in DHs. However, certain critical skill gaps need urgent attention, particularly in obstetrics and anaesthesia. Areas of weakness in ENT, urology, ophthalmology and dermatology could be addressed by including these specialities as a compulsory rotation in surgery, medicine or family medicine during internship training. 

Authors' affiliations

T C Nkabinde, Department of Family Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

A Ross, Department of Family Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

S Reid, Primary Healthcare Directorate, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

N M Nkwanyana, Department of Public Health Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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internship training; community service; COSMO

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2013;103(12):930-934. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.6702

Article History

Date submitted: 2013-01-15
Date published: 2013-09-30

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