Original Research

Experiences of community service environmental health practitioners

Anusha Karamchand, Emilie J. Kistnasamy
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 15 | a867 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v15i0.867 | © 2017 Anusha Karamchand, Emilie J. Kistnasamy | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 September 2016 | Published: 23 November 2017

About the author(s)

Anusha Karamchand, Department of Community Health Studies, Durban University of Technology, South Africa
Emilie J. Kistnasamy, Department of Community Health Studies, Durban University of Technology, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: The community service initiative, a 1-year placement of health graduates, significantly improved human resource availability in the South African public health sector, even though the process was fraught with challenges. Although experiences in the curative health sector were assessed, the experiences of environmental health practitioners were yet to be studied.

Research purpose: This study assessed the experiences of environmental health practitioners during their community service year.

Motivation for the study: Anecdotal evidence suggested problems with the process. This study endeavoured to identify the challenges whilst taking cognisance of its effectiveness.

Method: A total of n = 40 environmental health graduates from the Durban University of Technology who had concluded community service completed questionnaires in this crosssectional quantitative study. Descriptive statistics, means and standard deviations were used to analyse the data.

Main findings: The timing of community service placements was critical as 58% of respondents had to repay study loans. The placement of married respondents (10%) outside KwaZuluNatal, however, could have had impacts on family structures. Only 68% felt stimulated by their job functions, and there arose challenges with accommodation and overtime duties. Respondents felt that their tertiary education did equip them and that engagement with senior personnel helped in their professional development. Even though most of the review of the community service year appeared to be positive, a majority of respondents did not intend to continue working or recommending their workplaces. Future career pathing showed that 79% would prefer to be employed outside the public sector.

Practical and managerial implications: The process needs to be reviewed to strengthen human resource management and enhance retention in the often overloaded and under-resourced South African public health sector.

Contribution: Relevant stakeholders can better plan, communicate and support affected parties through empowering management structures and providing logistical aid.


Keywords

placements; professional development; human resources

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