SHAWCO study highlights the benefits of student-run clinics for medical students

1 Sep 2016 - 10:30

In photo: The Research Team - L to R - Ashley Viljoen, Nasreen Akoo, Sarah Ive, Sambesiwe Mfenyana, Luzuko Mngoma, Lydia Davids (Facilitator), Matthew Amoni (Head of SHAWCO Research), Michelle Horak

Medical students who participate in student-run clinics (SRCs) demonstrate improved confidence in clinical skills and clinical reasoning, as well as enhanced social awareness. This is according to a recent study conducted by a group of 4th year medical students in collaboration with the Students Health And Wellness Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) Research Portfolio.

Run by volunteers, SHAWCO SRCs provide free primary health care to underprivileged and impoverished communities in Cape Town. The organisation is internationally endorsed for providing ‘service-learning’ or ancillary teaching opportunities in clinics that place medical students at the forefront of clinical problem-solving and teaching; empowering them to be holistic professionals.

Although research in this area is growing in importance, as evidenced by a journal dedicated to the field, there are few studies from the African context. The SHAWCO research portfolio was set up for the purposes of filling this gap.

Speaking on the motivation to carry out the study, Head of SHAWCO research Matthew Amoni said “South Africa has only two of the few SRCs on the continent. We hope that publishing our work will inspire other universities to invest in this beneficial programme.”

Along with assessing the impact of the SHAWCO SRCs on medical students the study surveyed the quality of student learning and development in the clinics. The findings showed that students benefited from the clinics through the reinforcement and implementation of skills learnt in the classroom. Barriers to attending clinics were identified and recommendations put forward to the SHAWCO Steering Committee in a bid to improve attendance and experiences at the clinics.

In the final aspect of the study, students organised a Plaza day to raise awareness on the benefits of SHAWCO clinics. Amoni reiterated that SHAWCO SRCs are beneficial to various aspects of student development, and should be encouraged and supported from an institutional point of view.

The study is part of a larger project incorporating SHAWCO Rural outreach, SHAWCO allied health sciences students and a SHAWCO patient demographic review. It is hoped the studies will highlight areas for improvement of these programmes and provide a comprehensive perspective on the impact of SHAWCO student run clinics on medical students’ training.

In photo: 2nd year student Emma Kruger giving feedback on SHAWCO clinics at Plaza Day