The workplace as a learning environment: Perceptions and experiences of undergraduate medical students at a contemporary medical training university in Uganda

M N Kagawa, S Kiguli, W J Steinberg, M P Jama


Background. One of the most effective ways of translating medical theory into clinical practice is through workplace learning, because practice is learnt by practising. Undergraduate medical students at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda, have workplace rotations at Mulago National Referral and Teaching Hospital (MNRTH), Kampala, for the purpose of learning clinical medicine.

Objectives. To explore undergraduate medical students’ perceptions and experiences regarding the suitability of MNRTH as a learning environment to produce competent health professionals who are ready to meet the demands of contemporary medical practice, research and training.

Methods. This was a cross-sectional study with a mixed-methods approach. Students’ perceptions and experiences were assessed using the Dundee Ready Educational Environment Measure (DREEM), as well as focus group discussions (FGDs). Data from DREEM were analysed as frequencies and means of scores of perceptions of the learning environment. FGD data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results. The majority of students perceived the learning environment as having more positives than negatives. Among the positive aspects were unrestricted access to large numbers of patients and a wide case mix. Negative aspects included overcrowding due to too many students, and inadequate workplace affordances.

Conclusions. The large numbers of patients, unrestricted access to patients and the wide case mix created authentic learning opportunities for students – they were exposed to a range of conditions that they are likely to encounter often once they qualify. The areas of concern identified in the study need to be addressed to optimise learning at the workplace for undergraduate medical students

Authors' affiliations

M N Kagawa, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda

S Kiguli, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda

W J Steinberg, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

M P Jama, Division Student Learning and Development, Office of the Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

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Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2021;13(2):110-117. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2021.v13i2.1191

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-07-21
Date published: 2021-07-21

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