Open Access Open Badges Research article

Perceptions of newly admitted undergraduate medical students on experiential training on community placements and working in rural areas of Uganda

Dan K Kaye*, Andrew Mwanika, Patrick Sekimpi, Joshua Tugumisirize and Nelson Sewankambo

Author Affiliations

Makerere University College of Health Sciences, P.O. Box 7072, Kampala, Uganda

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:47  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-47

Published: 23 June 2010



Uganda has an acute problem of inadequate human resources partly due to health professionals' unwillingness to work in a rural environment. One strategy to address this problem is to arrange health professional training in rural environments through community placements. Makerere University College of Health Sciences changed training of medical students from the traditional curriculum to a problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum in 2003. This curriculum is based on the SPICES model (student-centered, problem-based, integrated, community-based and services oriented). During their first academic year, students undergo orientation on key areas of community-based education, after which they are sent in interdisciplinary teams for community placements. The objective was to assess first year students' perceptions on experiential training through community placements and factors that might influence their willingness to work in rural health facilities after completion of their training.


The survey was conducted among 107 newly admitted first year students on the medical, nursing, pharmacy and medical radiography program students, using in-depth interview and open-ended self-administered questionnaires on their first day at the college, from October 28-30, 2008. Data was collected on socio-demographic characteristics, motivation for choosing a medical career, prior exposure to rural health facilities, willingness to have part of their training in rural areas and factors that would influence the decision to work in rural areas.


Over 75% completed their high school from urban areas. The majority had minimal exposure to rural health facilities, yet this is where most of them will eventually have to work. Over 75% of the newly admitted students were willing to have their training from a rural area. Perceived factors that might influence retention in rural areas include the local context of work environment, support from family and friends, availability of continuing professional training for career development and support of co-workers and the community.


Many first year students at Makerere University have limited exposure to health facilities in rural areas and have concerns about eventually working there.