This was part of the insights shared with attendees at a panel discussion on health sciences at the Youth Employability Indaba and KZN Career Expoon Thursday.
The event, aimed at showcasing and informing pupils and students about career opportunities, was a joint initiative of the eThekwini Municipality, Durban ICC, eThekwini Maritime Cluster and Independent Media.
The discussion, chaired by Nompilo Nani, a project officer at the eThekwini Municipality, featured the offerings of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s College of Health Sciences.
Maryann Francis, a public relations manager for the college, explained the requirements, prospects and what each of their courses entails.
While medicine and nursing were the best-known qualifications, sports science was becoming increasingly popular. The greatest demand, though, was for audiologists and speech/language therapists, as there was a shortage in the country, she said.
To help pupils choose a suitable course, Francis said the university had free career counselling and more detailed psychometric testing at a cost.
“We also go out, particularly to lower quintile, rural schools to provide as much information about the college as possible,” she said.
Professor Ncoza Dlova, the dean and head of the School of Medicine, encouraged pupils from rural areas - like herself - to apply, to work hard and surround themselves with positive people in order to succeed.
“You can be anything in life as long as you are determined. It’s not about the money, it’s about the passion and the drive,” she said.
This was echoed by Dr Diane van Staden, UKZN’s Academic Leader of Optometry.
“You do need to have a strong maths and science foundation but, being a healthcare practitioner, you also need to have a natural curiosity. Whether you work with patients, in the lab or in research, you are trying to find the cause of a problem, and a solution.”
While there were many challenges in South Africa’s health system, the country was under-resourced so there were a lot of opportunities.
“But this field calls for humanity. People are not just clinical cases, they are human beings with emotions, backgrounds, who require compassion and caring. Displaying these characteristics and being good at your profession earns you people’s trust, and respect,” said third year nursing student Noxolo Buthelezi.