Original Research

Registrars’ experience with research in family medicine training programmes in South Africa

Emcy Louw, Robert J. Mash
South African Family Practice | Vol 66, No 1 : Part 2| a5907 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v66i1.5907 | © 2024 Emcy Louw, Robert J. Mash | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 January 2024 | Published: 10 April 2024

About the author(s)

Emcy Louw, Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Robert J. Mash, Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: Completion of a research assignment is a requirement for specialist training in South Africa. Difficulty with completion delays graduation and the supply of family physicians. The aim of this study was to explore the experience of registrars with their research in postgraduate family medicine training programmes.

Methods: An explorative descriptive qualitative study. Extreme case purposive sampling selected registrars who had and had not completed their research on time, from all nine training programmes. Saturation was achieved after 12 semi-structured interviews. The framework method was used for data analysis, assisted by ATLAS.ti software.

Results: The assumption of prior learning by teachers and supervisors contributed to a sense of being overwhelmed and stressed. Teaching modules should be more standardised and focussed on the practical tasks and skills, rather than didactic theory. Lengthy provincial and ethics processes, and lack of institutional support, such as scholarly services and financial support, caused delays. The expertise of the supervisor was important, and the registrar–supervisor relationship should be constructive, collaborative and responsive. The individual research experience was dependent on choosing a feasible project and having dedicated time. The balancing of personal, professional and academic responsibilities was challenging.

Conclusion: Training programmes should revise the teaching of research and improve institutional processes. Supervisors need to become more responsive, with adequate expertise. Provincial support is needed for streamlined approval and dedicated research time.

Contribution: The study highlights ways in which teaching, and completion of research can be improved, to increase the supply of family physicians to the country.


research; research activities; medical residency; postgraduate training; graduate education

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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