Qualitative exploration of the career aspirations of rural origin health science students in South Africa
Introduction: There is evidence in the literature that rural background significantly encourages eventual rural practice. Given the shortage of healthcare providers in rural areas, we need to explore ways of ensuring throughput and success of rural-origin students in health sciences. It is therefore important to understand who these students are, what motivates them and the factors involved in the formation of their career choices. Methods: The aim of this study is to understand the aspirations of undergraduate health science students of rural origin with regard to their future career plans. The objectives of the study include to explore and identify the key issues facing rural-origin students with regard to their future career plans. Individual interviews were conducted with 15 health science students from two South African universities. Transcriptions were analyzed with the aid of Nvivo v8 (www.qsrinternational.com). Results: The findings suggest health science students of rural origin studying at universities in the South African context face specific challenges related to the nature of the contrast between rural and urban life, in addition to the more generic adaptations that confront all students on entering tertiary education. Conclusion: In order to support rural students in their studies, academic, financial, emotional and social stressors need to be addressed. Universities should strengthen existing support structures as well as aid the development of further support that may be required.