The University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN) has launched an Intern Mentorship and Support Programme which aims to support interns with where they want to go in their careers as well as guidance when it comes to their mental and financial wellness and also their lives at work.
The program will consist of a series of workshops done every month. The programme was supposed to launch last year but was delayed due to challenges and Covid-19.
eNCA reported that, “Holding on to and developing important human resources has never been more important for South Africa’s health system. It’s a process which should start as soon as a young person starts their medical studies, but the high pressure environment they enter into especially during their three years of compulsory service is not always condusive.”
The programme’s founder, Professor Ncoza Dlova, said:
It’s always been a mission of mine, feeling that no one is actually able to bridge the gap between the young medical students when they qualify as final year students and then going to the independent world as young workers and professionals.
These young doctors are shielded in the first six years by their medical schools and Universities but then once they become qualified, it’s like they are left on their own, said the Professor.
Many young people working in the medical field are experiencing bouts of depression, especially now with a global pandemic taking place and all hands being called on deck. These young interns do not have much experience with being on the frontline and will have their lives and mental wellbeing impacted greatly as they work in the field.
This programme was a partnership between UKZN, the Department of Health in KZN and the private sector.
The timeline of a Medical qualification is that they have to do their degree on campus like every other student then they have to do three years of community service which consists of two years of a medical internship and one year of community service and this is where that jump to independence is seen.
With this mentorship programme, that jump into independence will hopefully be less scary and as wide.
“One of the other driving factors for my vision was the fact that we have the young doctors who have three years in the interim to serve community service and in that time, there is so much to be done to advise them”, said Dlova.
These young doctors will then get guidance and advice on where they see their career going or what changes they want to make and will help them with their thinking about what they want to do or specialise in.
Some of them don’t know what they want to do in the medical field and Dlova says they will be mentored and guided during this interim period of three years.
The health system has always been under pressure and is under even more now after this year’s events. Junior doctors are therefore going into the field and seeing that there aren’t enough medical professionals available to assist them and guide them and are expected to just do the work.
On this, Dlova says, “Sometimes, us as seniors, we are not exemplary and we do not offer the support that we are supposed to give to the young doctors. Sometimes we are too critical of them, too abusive of them and are not really supporting them”. She then goes on to explain that she always tells doctors that when they’re dealing with young doctors and students, they should treat them as they are their own and look after them as you would your children.
We also have to acknowledge that these doctors are under immense pressure and that their jobs are difficult but there are still those doctors who support students the way they should be.
Dlova says that they’ll be handing out certificates of appreciation to doctors and young doctors who they feel are exemplary and will be awarded at the end of each year.
She hopes that the program will be extended to all the academic institutions next year.
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé