Occupational therapy graduates’ reflections on their ability to cope with primary healthcare and rural practice during community service
Van Wyk, Jacqueline
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BACKGROUND: Occupational therapy graduates are expected to deliver service in public health facilities using a primary healthcare approach (PHC) during their community service year. There is limited literature available about their experiences in this context. OBJECTIVE: This study explored the experiences of novice occupational therapy graduates and the extent to which their curriculum had prepared them for practice in PHC settings. METHODS: This qualitative exploratory study used purposive sampling to recruit thirty nine novice occupational therapy graduates. Using audio-recorded semi-structured interviews and a focus group discussion data were collected to explore participants’ experience of work and the extent to which their undergraduate programme had prepared them for primary healthcare practice. The data was analyzed thematically. FINDINGS: Occupational therapy graduates expressed challenges in applying the PHC approaches for practice in resource-restricted rural settings. They required additional skills to communicate in the local indigenous language, to understand the various beliefs of the local communities and to manage change in these settings. They were well prepared for basic clinical skills as a need for urban-based ethical practice. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Curriculum planners need to review the teaching of communication skills and introduce students to strategies for change management. More inter-professional collaboration and service-learning in rural primary healthcare settings will prepare them better for rural and PHC settings.