Umsebenzi Project Empowers Health Science Students 

Wits’ Office of Student Success (OSS) equips health science students with valuable lessons to survive the harsh reality of the healthcare industry. 

The department of health sciences at Wits hosted a panel discussion on their premises in Parktown on July 20, 2023, to conscientize students on the issues that exist in the medical field — while empowering them with knowledge to help them thrive in the profession.

One of the organizers, Rachel Dzenga, explained that they aimed for the discussions to provide “emotional, academic, and therapeutic aid to students,” and to prepare them for the “transition from student to professional.” 

In May this year, Netcare, which operates the largest private hospital network in the country, warned that there is a shortage of nurses throughout South Africa. The Covid-19 pandemic created a huge shortage of qualified nurses and doctors. An estimated 21 090 nurses lost their jobs due to failure to renew their registration with the South African Nursing Council. Meanwhile, the country produces more doctors than they can afford to employ. 

A second-year dentistry student, Ayanda Ndaba, said she holds a degree in nursing and is “open to learning new skills,” however, she added that she could not find a position in nursing as there were no places hiring despite being “promised” by the program that she would easily find work after completing her community service hours. 

Dr. Bongiwe Nhlangulela and Lucy Pearl Khofi speaking to students about their relevant fields and how to survive the healthcare industry. Photo: Georgia Cartwright

To counter the same thing from happening, Ndaba said she learnt to “chase every opportunity available.”  

Lucy Pearl Khofi, an award-winning women’s health activist, encouraged students to “always be hungry and go beyond what is asked of [them].” Fraser further explained that the best way to make it in the industry is to “be open to any opportunity” as there is a greater need now than ever before for health care professionals. 

The discussion also touched on the debates about the National Health Insurance (NHI) which was passed in parliament on June 12, 2023. The NHI aims to create universal healthcare for all South Africans by bringing in a state-run medical aid, which will provide equal access to quality healthcare. However, it has not yet passed through legislation.

Facilitator of the discussion, Dr. Simon Fraser said the NHI is a “polarizing issue,” that could “overhaul the healthcare system”. Fraser adds that the NHI, if done correctly, could “provide plenty more healthcare positions,” as more qualified professionals will be needed to make up for the shortfall found in many public hospitals. 

Dzenga says that the OSS will be hosting more exciting conversations and events to further prepare students for the working world. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Dr. Simon Fraser, Dr. Johann Lamprecht, Lucy Pearl Khofi, and Dr. Bongiwe Nhlangulela giving advice to students at the Philip v Tobias building in Parktown. Photo: Georgia Cartwright

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