Creativity and an understanding of where your patients come from are key to being a successful rural doctor, says Dr Jenny Nash, who this week was named Rural Doctor of the Year.
Nash, who oversees primary healthcare clinics in Greater Kei in the Eastern Cape, was chosen by her peers in the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (RuDASA) at their annual conference in Worcester this week.
“You have to be able to network with the doctors in the bigger centres and explain about a patient – so you can use WhatsApp, e-mail, send pictures, and sometimes you can save the patients having to travel themselves,” says Nash.
Nash adds that it is essential to understand where patients come from “so that you can understand what is influencing patients, why they might not be not taking treatment and some of their beliefs that influence their health”.
“I get my inspiration from my faith, and my belief in wanting to help people and more than just giving out pills for every ill. In the rural areas you have amazing people, and in working with the different clinics it is important to draw in the people and all share a common vision. Sometimes it means doing many things that are not in your job description, but in serving the team to work together to achieve a goal,” Nash tells Health-e News.
For Jabulile Ndlovu, named Rural Occupational Therapist of the Year, “ you have to be multi-skilled”, adding that she has to sometimes be a physiotherapist and social worker.
“You have to be sensitive to the needs of the patient and the effort that they’ve made to present themselves in a health facility, and try not to turn them away,” says Ndlovu, from Manguzi Hospital in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
“You have to wreck you brain to come up with a solution. So the achievement of this award is like a handkerchief, wiping all the sweat of the years of frustration.”
Meanwhile, Western Cape’s rural doctor of the year, Dr Hans Hendriks from the Ceres District Hospital, says “often you are the final frontier for most patients”.
“When you’re on call, it’s only you. You have to sort out the problem, so you need a wide range of skills. What we see in the rural setting is very diverse and you cover the full range of medicine and you have to be able to handle any situation that come your way,” says Hendiks.
“When you are a rural doctor you live in the community and you start thinking community. You see where the problems are come up with ideas of how to solve it.”
Hear health workers talk about what it takes to “go rural”