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Pick your placement: community service applications

Placement-community-service-applicationsDr Lynelle Govender provides some top tips on what you need to consider when it comes to deciding where to spend your community service years

Amongst your colleagues you will find that internship can be a varied experience. Some will hate it, and yet others thrive. About halfway through your second year of internship you all face the same new and particular daunting challenge: applying for community service.

In the midst of trying to cope with the madness of internship you are faced with the reality that very soon you will be a community service officer. The security blanket of senior advice will not always be available to you and it is time to decide where you would like to be placed: a single application form with five choices sent to a faceless stranger will decide your fate.

The government will send you a time schedule along with your application form – read this schedule very carefully. According to the 2013 schedule, the forms were sent to all provinces by 30 May 2013. The final deadline for completed forms to arrive at the Department of Health (DoH) was 12 July 2013.

Simply put: you have approximately one month to decide where you would like to work. Use your time wisely and efficiently

Communicate clearly with your Human Resources department; they will usually request your forms to be handed in earlier than the stated deadline so that they can be posted well in advance to the DoH.

Simply put: you have approximately one month to decide where you would like to work. Use your time wisely and efficiently. You should begin thinking about your community service (com serv) placement from the beginning of your second year of internship. This will give you adequate time to do research in order to make an informed decision.

It cannot be overemphasised how important research is. Once you have decided which hospitals you prefer, endeavour to find out more information about the facility. Ask in-depth questions regarding the following:

  • Housing – Find out if accommodation is provided for the community service officers and if the housing is of a suitable standard. If housing is not provided, make sure you find out if your rent will be subsidised.
  • Overtime hours – Different facilities have different structures of overtime, which may affect both your lifestyle and your salary. Ask the difficult questions and be aware what you are getting into.
  • Salary – Not all community service officers earn exactly the same. Some receive rural allowance and yet others are given relocation allowance. Find out if you are eligible to receive these benefits and what sort of paperwork will be involved. Moving to a new province can be a costly business and you should prepare yourself financially.
  • Work experience – Craving theatre time or seeking more time to build rapport with patients? Do some digging to find out what awaits you next year.
  • Senior support – Senior support can be anywhere between a cavalry of consultants while in other facilities you may be the most senior doctor on site. Acquire these key facts before plunging in to the proverbial deep end.
  • Local surroundings – You may be surprised how much you enjoy distant towns in far-flung provinces. Enquire about the environment and what amenities are available, ie, banks, shops, entertainment.

Make a simple phone call, or use your greatest ally: social media. Use online groups and forums to gain the information you need.

Hospitals, just like people, have reputations: whispers of horror stories or glorified anecdotes of the hey-days when com servs could sleep on call. Reputations, however, are not always reliable and you should keep in mind that many dilapidated hospitals have been renovated and refurbished and several once-popular facilities have slipped into a state of decay. Speak to a doctor presently working at the facility in order to gain more accurate information.

That said, you would do well to remember that a current doctor’s opinion is largely influenced by numbers. A formerly famous hospital that receives fewer com serv doctors may be a disaster, and conversely, a notoriously busy or lonely facility that receives a full complement of staff may be a pleasure to work at.

Both the Department of Health and the Department of Defense (South African Military Health Service) offer posts across all nine provinces.

You would do well to remember that a current doctor’s opinion is largely influenced by numbers

Once the application forms are released it will become a talking point amongst your intern friends and colleagues. Do not let others sway you. Think carefully and calmly about what you wish to experience from your com serv year. Some interns will wish to be in a specific town, others want to experience the freedom of rural practice, while yet others will want an academic setting with a potential opportunity to rotate through a chosen specialty. Everyone wants different things and your task will be simply to decide what you want.

“I’ve been second-rounded,” or worse, “third-rounded” – now what? Grammatically, it is up for debate as to whether these terms actually exist. However, the professors of English will have to forgive us our blatant misuse of the language.

The expressions “second-rounded” and “third-rounded” strikes immediate fear into the heart of an intern: the horrifying prospect of not being allocated to any of your first five choices is a nightmare. If the worst happens remember to keep a cool head. Weigh your available options carefully and you may find that being secondrounded is not the disaster that it initially seemed to be.

Most com servs agree that your experience of community service depends not only on where you are allocated but with whom. There is indeed strength in numbers. A distant rural hospital can be a great experience if you gather a few friends and apply to go there together. This is a particular good strategy to hold on to if several of your friends have been “second-rounded”.

Approach the year with a positive attitude and a good experience is sure to follow

Collectively you can turn a theoretically lonesome and dreadful experience into a fun and enjoyable year. Community service can be a year of immense personal and professional growth. Regardless of where you are allocated, approach the year with a positive attitude and a good experience is sure to follow.

Dr Lynelle Govender is a Community Service Medical Officer at Area Military Health Unit (Nelspruit), Mpumalanga

Rural-vs-urbanRural v Urban

Going rural has many benefits which include, but are not limited to, the famed rural allowance. Rural clinics can offer you:

  • The opportunity to practise medicine and make decisions independently
  • Beautiful surroundings
  • The opportunity to explore parts of the country you would have otherwise ignored
  • Laid back atmosphere
  • Rural or deep rural allowance
  • Theatre time.

You can be limited, however, in the following:

  • Little or no senior support
  • Difficult to refer patients with referral hospitals often far away
  • Few special investigations available at your disposal
  • Small town living can result in boredom and loneliness
  • Few amenities available.

Being in a large centre in a big city always sounds promising and it certainly can be. Benefits include:

  • Senior staff that can assist you with difficult cases
  • Convenient location
  • Special investigations easily available, even after hours
  • Easier to refer patients
  • You may be allowed to rotate through a specialty of your choice at a large hospital
  • You may pursue diplomas in these above-stated specialties.

However, the metropolitan life has its disadvantages as well:

  • Busy, stressful environment
  • No rural allowance
  • Relying on seniors to manage difficult cases with less self-confidence built
  • Less theatre time.
31 comments
  • By Morongoa Glenda on 07 November 2017 02:48 I am a final year nutrition student studying at the university of Venda so my question is am i able to apply for community service under dietitian because there is no nutritionist option? And if i am allowed when are the registration opening again
  • By Alice on 01 August 2017 11:28 Thanks for your recent posts. Medical Protection is unable to provide further information or specific advice on community service applications. Please direct your queries to your academic institution, senior colleagues or the Department of Health for more specific information. With best wishes, The Web Team
  • By Swati on 31 July 2017 04:41

    I am foreign qualified dentist cleared exam in 2016 which conducted by HPCSA and apply for annual cycle got placement in 3rd round but for that post was frees-ed because of budget issue was their so not joined and then applied in midyear cycle but not get placed now I am worried and frusted please advice what should I do?

  • By swati on 31 July 2017 04:39

    Good day team

    I am foreign qualified dentist cleared exam in 2016 which conducted by HPCSA and apply for annual cycle got placement in 3rd round but for that post was frees-ed because of budget issue was their so not joined and then applied in midyear cycle but not get placed now I am worried and frusted please advice what should I do?

  • By dk shoya on 03 April 2017 11:18 Thanks for the link
  • By KHAYELIHLE on 01 February 2017 10:31 THANX FOR YOU HELP
  • By KHAYELIHLEW on 01 February 2017 10:30 THANX FOR YOUR HELP WEB TEAM
  • By Alice on 03 January 2017 10:36 Thanks for your posts. Medical Protection is unable to provide further information or specific advice on community service applications. Please direct your queries to your academic institution, senior colleagues or the Department of Health for more specific information. With best wishes, The Web Team
  • By Tebello on 30 December 2016 09:07 My name is Tebello Malebo and I completed my Environmental Health studies in 2014 and never got placed yet there are people who completed in 2015 and 2016 yet are placed. please assist I applied online and did everything I was told to do but still I cant seem to get help. Thank you
  • By Tebello on 06 December 2016 01:39 Hi, I completed my D4-4 nursing this year with ANNLATSKY College. I was not placed in the 1st and 2nd round but when I tried to apply for 3rd round the system kept on declining to grant me access. I have not been placed even now and I need to apply for SANC through my college. PLEASE ASSIST..
  • By Sinalo on 06 December 2016 07:35

    Good day

    I completed Btech: Environmental Health this year. I am looking for community services. I was considered in the second round of placement and located at ethekwini metro municipality. but since then I have not received any information.

  • By Alice on 23 November 2016 08:12

    Thanks for your posts. For specific advice, members of Medical Protection are invited to telephone our advice line on 0800 982 766.

    Alternatively your queries may be best directed to your academic institution, senior colleagues or the Department of Health. 

    With best wishes, The Web Team

  • By Tinus Grobler on 21 November 2016 08:01

    : medica: Community Service YearDear Sir/madam

    I need your assistance as a concerned parentMy daughter is finishing of her final intern year and is suppose to start her community service year and still has not been placed.What happens if she doesn't get placed ?Will she still receive a salary at medical officer rateShe is heart broken and feels that the system has let her down Kind RegardsTinus Grobler

  • By Alice on 03 October 2016 09:59 Thanks for your posts. For specific advice, your queries may be best directed to your academic institution, senior colleagues or the Department of Health. With best wishes, The Web Team
  • By Mary masilela on 30 September 2016 09:12

    Cnt access the website for community service allocation.i forgot my password and it does not want to restart 

  • By Siphosethu on 14 September 2016 03:22 I am a community service medical officer unable to find employment please alert of any funded posts available 
  • By Alice on 06 September 2016 12:50 Thanks for your posts. For specific advice, your queries may be best directed to your academic institution, senior colleagues or the Department of Health. With best wishes, The Web Team
  • By Hasib on 30 August 2016 08:12

    Good day Sir / Madam

    Im an MBBS and MPH From Bangladesh. Wish to Enroll my self as Community Health service Provider. Could you help me to find a way out

    Thanks

    Hasib

  • By San on 12 August 2016 08:53

    hellow sir/madam

    I would like to know, what to do when saying your registration is not available? I'm doing bachelor of nursing, final year. 

  • By Patricia on 11 August 2016 02:39

    Good day Sir/ Madam

    I am a foreign national. I did my B.pharm at the University of the Western Cape, and i will be completing my academic internship by the end of the year.

    My question is this " which provinces and facilities must i choose for my community service to be able to get a post next year".

    Thanks as i await your favourable respond.

  • By Alice on 08 August 2016 05:18 Thanks for your post Lebogang. If you are member of Medical Protection, please feel free to telephone our advice line on 0800 982 766 where one of our advisers may be able direct you to some help. With best wishes, the Web Team.
  • By lebogang on 27 July 2016 03:07 please assist me in my application
  • By Mira on 27 July 2016 07:45

    Good morning,

    I am a UK graduate looking to relocate to SA. I am currently finishing up my second year internship and looking to apply to commsrve posts. My application to hpcsa is still pending but in the process. What are your tips for my situation to best get about applying? Many thanks

  • By Alice on 06 June 2016 02:57

    Thanks for your post, Stanford. The information at the following links might be of use:

    I hope this is helpful. Best wishes, The Web Team

  • By stanford on 31 May 2016 07:46 Hi im stanford.im a final year nursing student and i would like to work in UK after comserv.just need some info on what to do
  • By Alice on 23 May 2016 10:40

    Thanks for your post, Natasha. I've checked with a professional colleague here and he has suggested you contact your Board of the HPCSA, in this case the Physiotherapy, Podiatry and Biokinetics Board, which I think you have already done. He suggests that the HPCSA can sometimes so persistence is essential. Only the Board can decide. 

    From the HPCSA's Quick Reference Guide to Registrations it appears that an individuals needs to have completed community service prior to entering independent practice - see page 55, para 12.2(b)(i).

    You will need to to find out, from the local registration body if you can register in the UK in the absence of full South African registration. Additionally you will have to consider your options regarding registration (or not) in South Africa, particularly if you do not register and later wish to return. I hope this is helpful. With best wishes, The Web Team.

  • By Natasha Santos on 20 May 2016 09:33 Hi.  I am a 4th year Physiotherapy student. (I have EU Citizenship). I want to go to the UK at the end of the year when I completed my studies and have started the process to have my degree accredited there.  I have enquired from the HPCSA where I am currently registered as a Student if the community service year is compulsory and if I can go to the UK without doing the year.  I have had one person say no I can go I will just have to do the year if I decide to come to SA and work here but if not I can leave, and another person said I have to do the comms year before I go to Europe otherwise I do not get my degree.  Please could you advise as I want to go to Europe at the end of the year and not do my comms year.
  • By Alice on 25 April 2016 08:59 Hi Samkeh. Many thanks for your post and I'm sorry to hear of the difficulties you've experienced. Unfortunately we do not have any experience in this particular field. We would suggest approaching the HPCSA who may be able to advise. I hope this is helpful. Best wishes, Alice (The Web Team).
  • By samkeh on 21 April 2016 11:41

    Good day sir/Madam

    I graduated 2014 in Mangosuthu University of technology but they is no community service placement till today am still unemployed because everywhere i ago they need community service and I am confused because I do not know what may I suppose to do thanks.

    from Samkelisiwe Biyela 

  • By Alice on 18 September 2015 02:14 Thank you for your comment, Sisanda. I'm sorry to hear of the difficulties you've experienced. Unfortunately we do not have any experience in this particular field. We would suggest approaching the HPCSA directly, or alternatively the Peninsula Technikon for help. If there is an association of environmental health officers they also may be able to advise. I hope you are able to get a placement arranged soon. Best wishes, Alice (The Web Team)
  • By Sisanda Pepese on 06 August 2015 11:57

    Good day Sir / Madam

    I graduated 2001 in Peninsula Technikon in Environmental Health. 2001 the was no community service /placements, only started 2002. Now I am facing some difficulty to get the community service and I am not being short listed to any position even for the assistant Environmental health officer because of not having an experience. I am looking for a community service so that I can be able to be in the field. I have been paying the annual fee from HPCSA but also is not helping me. Its been years now trying to get in this field.Could you kindly please advise me how to deal with this problem.

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