Original Research

Final-year medical students need to know their future supervisory role of clinical associates

Michiel Koortzen, Lourens W. Biggs, Jacqueline Wolvaardt, Astrid Turner, Martin Bac, Mark Volpe
South African Family Practice | Vol 62, No 1 : Part 2| a5019 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v62i1.5019 | © 2020 Michiel Koortzen, Lourens W. Biggs, Jacqueline Wolvaardt, Astrid Turner, Martin Bac, Mark Volpe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 November 2019 | Published: 16 July 2020

About the author(s)

Michiel Koortzen, School of Medicine, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Lourens W. Biggs, School of Medicine, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Jacqueline Wolvaardt, School of Health Systems and Public Health, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Astrid Turner, School of Health Systems and Public Health, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Martin Bac, Department of Family Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Mark Volpe, University of Saint Joseph, West Hartford, Connecticut, United States

Abstract

Background: A clinical associate (ClinA) is a mid-level health professional who may only practise under the supervision of a medical doctor. By extension, medical students need to be prepared for this responsibility. This study explored whether final-year medical students at one university were aware of this supervisory role, felt prepared and were knowledgeable about the ClinAs’ scope of practice.

Methods: A descriptive, cross-sectional study was conducted. The population included all final-year medical students who had completed their District Health and Community Obstetrics rotations (March to November 2017). After an end-of-rotation session, 151 students were given questionnaires to complete. A list of 20 treatments or procedures was extracted from the ClinAs’ gazetted scope of practice for a ‘knowledge test’. Data were analysed with Stata and Microsoft Excel. Ethical permission was granted.

Results: The response rate was 77.4% (n/N = 117/151). The majority of participants (76.1%, n = 86) had worked with a qualified or student ClinA before and had a generally positive impression (81.4%; n = 70). Almost half (47.8%; n = 56) thought that the ClinAs’ scope of work was similar to registered nurses rather than a doctor’s (38.2%; n = 44). Most were unaware that they would be required to supervise ClinAs once qualified (65.8%; n = 77). On average, participants identified 12 out of 20 treatments or procedures that a ClinA could perform.

Conclusion: Despite having worked with ClinAs, participants appeared largely unaware of their future legal obligation of supervision. Adequate clinical supervision is based on the knowledge of the scope of practice, which was variable. Formal training on the scope of the work of ClinAs is needed to prepare future doctors for their supervisory role. Medical schools have an obligation to adequately prepare their students in this regard as part of their transformative education with elements of interprofessional education.


Keywords

Clinical associate; bachelor of clinical medical practice; clinical supervision; doctors; medical students; ClinA

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