Research

Assessing South African medical interns’ experience and confidence in managing obstetric emergencies

A C Miller, F J L B Mayanja, J D Porter

Abstract


Background. Medical doctors in South Africa (SA) are required to complete a 2-year internship at training hospitals, including a 4-month rotation in obstetrics and gynaecology. Following this, doctors are allocated to community service posts, many of which are at district- and primary-level facilities where supervision is limited. Recent triennial Saving Mothers reports identify district hospitals (DHs) as the second leading site for maternal deaths of all causes, the leading site for maternal deaths secondary to obstetric haemorrhage, and the most likely site for the lack of a skilled doctor to be identified as a factor in deaths associated with caesarean delivery.

Objectives. To describe the self-perceived readiness of medical interns completing their training to manage obstetric emergencies, based on the Essential Steps in the Management of Obstetric Emergencies modules in the Health Professions Council of South Africa’s internship logbook.

Methods. This cross-sectional descriptive study assessed medical interns in the last 3 months of their training, using a self-administered online questionnaire. Data collection took place between October and December 2019.

Results. Cluster sampling of interns at training facilities throughout SA resulted in a total of 182 respondents from 17 hospitals in seven provinces in the country, with an overall response rate of 34.1%. Most interns had experience with and confidence in the management of miscarriage and hypertension in pregnancy. However, gaps in labour ward management, pregnancy-related sepsis and surgical skills were identified. Only 42.3% of respondents were confident in their ability to diagnose obstructed labour, 26.3% had performed an assisted delivery, 39.0% were confident in their knowledge of the indications for and contraindications to assisted deliveries, and 35.7% had been involved in the delivery of a baby with shoulder dystocia. Regarding pregnancy-related sepsis, 54.4% had experience with managing a wound abscess and 29.7% were confident managing puerperal endometritis. While 78.0% felt confident to perform a caesarean section (CS), only 28.6% had performed uterine compression suture for uterine atony at CS. Additionally, there was a statistically significant variation in scores between training hospitals.

Conclusions. An incongruity exists between the shortcomings in DH obstetric services, the prioritisation of placement of community service doctors at primary healthcare facilities and DHs, and the self-perceived readiness of medical interns completing their training to manage obstetric emergencies safely. This situation highlights the importance of clinical support for junior doctors at DHs and standardisation of intern training at accredited facilities across SA.

 


Authors' affiliations

A C Miller, Department of Family Medicine and Rural Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Walter Sisulu University, Mthatha, South Africa; Madwaleni District Hospital, Mbhashe sub-district, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

F J L B Mayanja, Department of Family Medicine and Rural Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Walter Sisulu University, Mthatha, South Africa

J D Porter, Department of Family Medicine and Rural Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Walter Sisulu University, Mthatha, South Africa; Symphony Way Community Day Centre, Cape Town, South Africa

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Keywords

Medical internship; Training; Maternal health; Obstetrics; Primary healthcare; District hospital; Community service; Essential Steps in the Management of Obstetric Emergencies; ESMOE

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2021;111(11):1098-1103. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2021.v111i11.15897

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-11-05
Date published: 2021-11-05

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