Socio-economic characteristics and career intentions of the WiSDOM health professional cohort in South Africa
Rispel, L.C.; Ditlopo, P.; White, J.A.; Blaauw, D.
Plos one 14(10): E0223739
ISSN/ISBN: 1932-6203 PMID: 31634904 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0223739
The human resources for health (HRH) crisis and dearth of research on the health labour market in South Africa informed the WiSDOM (Wits longitudinal Study to Determine the Operation of the labour Market among its health professional graduates) cohort study. The study aims to generate new knowledge on the career choices and job location decisions of health professionals in South Africa. WiSDOM is a prospective longitudinal cohort study. During 2017, the first cohort for each of eight professional groups was established: clinical associates, dentists, doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, oral hygienists, pharmacists and physiotherapists. These cohorts will be followed up for 15 years. For the baseline data collection, each final year health professional student completed an electronic self-administered questionnaire (SAQ), after providing informed consent. The SAQ included information on: demographic characteristics; financing of training; reasons for choosing their profession; and their career intentions. We used STATA® 14 to analyse the data. We obtained an 89.5% response rate and 511 final year health professional students completed the baseline survey. The mean age of all participants was 24.1 years; 13.1% were born in a rural area; 11.9% and 8.0% completed their primary and secondary schooling in a rural area respectively. The health professional students came from relatively privileged backgrounds: 45.0% had attended a private school, the majority of their fathers (77.1%) had completed tertiary education, and 69.1% of their mothers had completed tertiary education. Students with higher socio-economic status (SES Quintiles 3-5) made up a larger proportion of the occupational therapists (77.8%), physiotherapists (71.7%), doctors (66.7%), and dentists (64.7%). In contrast, individuals from SES Quintiles 1 and 2 were over-represented among the clinical associates (75.0%), oral hygienists (71.4%), nurses (61.9%), and pharmacists (56.9%). Almost one quarter (24.9%) of cohort members indicated that they had partly financed their studies through loans. Although 86.3% of all cohort members indicated that they plan to stay in their chosen profession, this ranged from 43.2% for clinical associates to 100% for dentists. WiSDOM has generated new knowledge on health professional graduates of a leading South African University. The results have implications for university selection criteria and national health workforce planning.