A group of fourth-year University of Cape Town (UCT) medical students who are helping empower Mitchell’s Plain residents by teaching them basic first-aid skills are themselves benefiting from the experience as they learn the essential of community-oriented primary care (COPC).
The group, including students Nabeelah Gani and Josh Fieggen, recently drew a wide range of participants when they conducted a day-long workshop in the Westridge Civic Centre. The event was a community project forming part of the course requirements for the MBChB fourth-year Health in Context block.
The block is aimed at appropriately preparing future medical practitioners for working in the South African health system, and includes an introduction to the practice of community-oriented primary care (COPC) through theoretical and experiential learning.
One of the key requirements for this block is to initiate and execute a targeted intervention determined by the needs of a specific community, and Gani, Fieggen and their fellow students decided on Mitchell’s Plain after establishing that basic first-aid knowledge would benefit many people in the community.
They were assisted by Christolene Beauzac-McKay, UCT’s site facilitator in Mitchell’s Plain, as well as Vanessa Meyer, a member of the local health committee.
“We met with the community members to find out what their concerns were. There were some common medical challenges, including asthma and epilepsy, and then trauma, because there’s [a lot of] violence in the community,” said Fieggen.
With this in mind, the group set to work creating a programme for the workshop that focused on asthma, epilepsy, choking, burns, broken bones, bites and bleeding, while also touching on the subjects of advocacy and policy change.
A Mitchell’s Plain Community First Aid Facebook page was created to raise awareness about the upcoming event, posters were put up in clinics, and invitations were sent out by word of mouth.
“We had mostly community health workers and members of the Chronic Club, a group for people who suffer from lifestyle diseases, attending the workshop,” said Gani.
“But we also had some attendees who had found our Facebook page, along with members of a local gym and pre-school.”
While the workshop didn’t end with attendees receiving any kind of certification, it was a useful exercise to help them to understand best practice in first aid, and to teach them some basic skills to ensure they don’t cause any further harm when helping someone in need.
“Clearing up a few myths was probably the most rewarding part of the workshop,” said Gani.
“For instance, many of the people who attended believed that when someone’s having a seizure, they should put something in their mouths – which isn’t the best idea.”
“Clearing up a few myths was probably the most rewarding part of the workshop.”
To help people remember the skills they had learnt, Fieggen and Gani’s group created instructional flyers and handed them out on the day. The information has been added to the Facebook page as an additional resource.
Advocacy and policy change
Apart from teaching basic first-aid skills, the students also delivered a presentation about advocacy and policy change in healthcare, and how this relates to human rights.
Both Fieggen and Gani noted that this was a topic which seemed to be of particular interest to the attendees.
“They seemed quite keen to find out more about this. We hope that it might be taken up as a topic for educational talks at the local clinics,” said Fieggen.
Currently, sisters at the local clinics make use of the lengthy waiting times to educate patients about important topics such as HIV and diabetes. Having first aid, advocacy and policy change added to this list could help further empower community members.
While these community projects form part of the course requirements, if they’re done well they can have a lasting impact.
“I think this block is incredibly useful, as it really helps us realise that we need to look at patients more holistically to really understand their context. This way, you can give them interventions that will be applicable to them in their specific situation,” said Gani.
Beauzac-McKay said the community responded positively to the project, even requesting further first-aid education.
“We were very impressed with the workshop, and it’s great to know that we can help friends and family who might need it,” added Meyer.
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