How long does it take a registrar to complete the compulsory research project enabling specialist registration?

E S Grossman


Background. The 2011 Health Professions Council of South Africa mandate requires a research component in the form of an MMed degree to permit specialist registration. Registrars consider that the time required to complete an MMed interferes with clinical training, service delivery obligations, and study and exam time. Net research time to completion is difficult to establish because MMed research activity is often intermittent, starting and finishing anywhere within the 4-year clinical training period. Conversely, gross dissertation completion time (DCT) is easily calculated by subtracting the ethics approval date from the dissertation submission date.

Objectives. To use gross DCT as a proxy to assess the time needed by registrars to finish the required research project. Additionally, the effect of four variables, namely dissertation format, clinical discipline, university research resources and the introduction of the 2011 ruling on gross DCT, was determined.

Methods. The sample was 213 MMed dissertations, downloaded from the public domain. The dissertation submission date was subtracted from the ethics approval date to give the gross DCT in months. Descriptive analysis and χ2 testing were used to determine the effects of the four variables on gross DCT, with significance set at p<0.05. A 12-month proposal preparation time was added to the gross DCT to fully reflect the MMed research timeline.

Results. Sampled dissertations were from 2005 to 2017 and all eight MMed training universities were represented, as were 23 clinical disciplines. The mean (standard deviation) gross DCT was 31.0 (19.6) months, with a wide completion range of 0.2 - 109 months. When 12 months’ proposal preparation time was added, gross mean research completion time rose to 43 months (31 + 12 = 43). A mere 41% of dissertations were sufficiently concluded to free up the final year for exam preparation. Gross DCT was not significantly affected by the 2011 requirement, university resources or clinical discipline. Dissertation format (publication ready v. monograph) significantly decreased gross DCT (p=0.01).

Conclusions. Large standard deviations and a wide range of finishing times detract from the positive findings that most dissertations were completed within the 4-year clinical training time period. Publication-ready dissertations significantly shortened MMed completion time. Unique study and work commitments and lack of research experience challenge speedy MMed completion. Existing research and supervisory supportive structures should be remodelled to better suit the research needs of the andragogic specialist registrar.


Author's affiliations

E S Grossman, East London and Port Elizabeth Health Resource Centres, Faculty of Health Sciences, Walter Sisulu University, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

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Research project; Registrar; Trainee specialist; Resident; Time; Dissertation; Thesis

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2019;109(4):254-258. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v109i4.13377

Article History

Date submitted: 2019-03-29
Date published: 2019-03-29

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