Wits University clinical medical students have been accused of misconduct.

“The allegations are just ridiculous aim(ed) at victimising my son.” This is according to Lovington Ngema*, the father of a Wits clinical medical student accused of falsifying his daily academic log. The student, a final year Bachelor of Clinical Medical Practice (BCMP) student, is one of three students who were accused of misconduct for allegedly falsifying their clinical rotation logs at various academic hospital linked to Wits University, on November 20, 2019.

Ngema’s son, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is accused of logging falsified information on his daily log book via a digital device issued by the university. Clinical medical students are required to complete the eLogBook accurately and honestly, filling in patient data, performed procedures and skills immediately after completing the procedure or skill and is a record of what the student has done and the hours they have work during clinical rotations.

“At the beginning of each clinical rotation, students are assigned a clinical preceptor who orientates them, introduces them to the staff of their assigned departments and hands them off to the staff”, said Professor Richard Cooke, acting academic head of Family Medicine and Primary Care. “A clinical preceptor is usually a doctor at the hospital who also has a joint assignment at Wits, typically as an associate professor”, added Cooke. At the end of the clinical day or session, the preceptor or the person they delegate their authority to (designee) is expected to review all patient interactions and skills completed by a student. The daily log of each student can only be submitted once a preceptor inputs their password onto the student’s device. According to Ngema’s father, the university is accusing his son of signing himself off in two of his rotations without the approval of the qualified doctor on the relevant days.

Breakdown of BCMP Program Within the final year of the BCMP program, students are required to complete six clinical rotations, each lasting for five weeks at two or three different hospitals to maximise exposure and learning experiences.

Students are assigned to a clinical preceptor who orientates them and introduces them to the staff of the relevant department in which they perform their rotations.

Alongside completing their rotations, students are required to submit a ‘Student ePortfolio’ which contains an eLogBook, documentation of clinical hours, after hours, patients seen, skills performed and clinical evaluations. The eLogBook contains a pre-programmed list of all the procedures and skills that a student will perform during each rotation. Students are required to complete the eLogBook accurately and honestly, filling in patient data, performed procedures and skills immediately after completing the procedure or skill. At the end of the clinical day or session, the clinical preceptor or the person designated to act on their behalf, will review all patient interactions and skills completed by a student and will be submitted online by the preceptor.

According to the third-year BCMP course guidelines, if a student fails two or more rotations, s/he fails the course and would need to repeat the entire course the next academic year, fulfilling all requirements of a Year 3 student. “Majority of the time, the clinical preceptor was never available to sign-off on all our procedures, so they would delegate an intern or the other doctors to sign-off on our eLogBook”, said the 22 year-old.

The 22-year-old accused student told Wits Vuvuzela that more charges have been brought against him during the course of this week. These include: a misrepresentation of the clinical activities that he had performed, and/or a misrepresentation that he acquired a specific clinical skill, and/or a misrepresentation that he had acquired a level of knowledge, skill and expertise sufficient to treat patients with safety.

“I was given a pass mark after completing every rotation. Throughout the year I assumed I was doing the right thing, yet they [the Wits Legal Office and BCMP faculty] find it in their hearts to surprise me when it’s time for me to graduate”, said the student.

“After I took the initiative to inquire about my missing marks, I received an email about the errors in my logbook. I am assuming that they weren’t going to tell me anything if I hadn’t inquired about my missing marks. I assume this was them trying to be ethical at the time”, added the student.

“The teaching of the BCMP programme has too many flaws and the department does not want to own up to their mistakes,” he said.

“Throughout the year we as clinical associate students have always had to fend for ourselves in the hospital sites. The lecturers would come to introduce us to the site but never did they actually assign us to the doctor we needed to work with hence we fend for ourselves to meet all of our supposed objectives.” According to the student, his daily logs were predominantly signed off by interns or supervisors and not the clinical preceptor.

“It really pains me when I think that I paid lot of money for my child to be left alone at hospital sites without any lecturers visiting him at hospitals, meaning Wits medical school left my child to fend for himself for the whole year. I’m very sad and disgusted,” added Ngema.

“One student has pleaded guilty to misconduct, investigations against the other two students are still underway”, said Cooke. “My hope is that through a robust interrogation, these issues (students misrepresenting their academic records) will be brought to light”, said Cooke.

The two accused students are set to appear at a disciplinary hearing at the Wits Legal Office next week.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the accused student.

This story came to me after the accused visited the Wits Vuvuzela newsroom with his father. I had never met this student and am not connected to him via any of my network. Using the information at hand I contacted six people, some of whom did not wish to be quoted but helped me to verify various aspects of the story. The second accused student and the student who pleaded guilty were also contacted but declined to comment. Wits communications declined to comment on the basis that the investigation is ongoing.

Journalist: Tumi Modiba

Sub-editor 1: Gemma Gattichi

Sub-editor 2: Lwazi Maseko

Editor: Dinesh Balliah

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits Clinical Medical students await their fate at the university. Photo: File