Community Service at the Kimberley Hospital Complex

I’ve had several friends and colleagues over the years that have been placed here as their Com Serve post and I’m so grateful to Stephanie Kaylor for giving an update on what doing your Com Serve here would be like….

“I am a graduate from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and was placed at Kimberley Hospital Complex, in the Northern Cape for my Community Service year in 2017.

I chose to study Speech-Language Pathology as I have an interest in languages, anatomy, and healthcare. From the start, I loved studying Speech Therapy, and would definitely recommend this career choice. During my studies, I became interested specifically in adult neurogenic acquired speech and language disorders, as well as adult dysphagia. In addition, I enjoyed working with children with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and articulation delays/disorders.

Kimberley Hospital Complex (KHC) was my third choice for community service applications. It is a large tertiary hospital with many different departments such as Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Dietetics, Medical, Surgical, Adult and Paediatric ICU, Neurology, ENT, Burns, and the Premature Unit. There is a large group of commserve therapists and doctors working at KHC, which allows for new friendships and the opportunity to work with different people.

Since working at KHC in January 2017, I have been impressed. Speech-Therapy and Audiology is one department, and is made up of both permanent and commserve staff members. There are currently four Speech Therapists (2 permanent, 2 commserve), and we see a range of out-patients and in-patients. There is a vast and varied caseload of both in-patients and out-patients. Each Speech Therapist has approximately 5 wards allocated to them. Every 3 months, we rotate wards so that by the end of the year, each person has had experience in every ward in the hospital. This is a great opportunity for commserves to gain invaluable exposure and experience working with adults and paediatrics in a variety of areas. You also learn so much from the permanent therapists. KHC allows exposure to: adult, paediatric and neonatal dysphagia, premature babies, early communication intervention, traumatic brain injury, tracheostomy, adult neuro, voice, AAC, cleft lip/palate, autism, cerebral palsy, language and speech delays, stuttering and literacy development. Unfortunately, at the time, the Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) machine was broken, and therefore, we could not conduct swallowing assessments using MBS. As a commserve you also get to participate in prevention and promotion projects. The Speech Therapy department is extremely well-resourced with plentiful toys, games, flashcards, assessment tools, therapy workbooks, worksheets, computer apps for stuttering therapy and voice, printers, a laminator and various other materials which are put to great use. The department is very well-organised and has efficient and functional systems in place, which enables speech therapy services to run smoothly.

Besides my interest in adult neuro and dysphagia; during this year, I discovered an interest in paediatric dysphagia and the importance of early communication intervention, as well as early latching/sucking skills for premature babies.

Moving to Kimberley was initially a daunting experience as it was the first time I had moved out of home. I was lucky enough to know a few people from UCT which made moving to a new place somewhat less daunting. But from the beginning, I made many new friends. I stayed in a house with two other commserves (a physio and a dietician), and three intern doctors stayed on the same property. Commserves tend to move in together, which makes the whole experience more enjoyable and fun. An advantage of doing commserve in Kimberley is that the hospital subsidises your rent, which is a great help. Another perk of living in Kimberley is that everything is in close proximity; you never have to travel far to get to places, and you save on petrol costs! There is also an airport and bus facility which is convenient if you are planning to visit home often.

With regards to social activities, there are limited things to do in Kimberley but it is what you make of it, and we tried to make the most of it. There are two shopping malls with all the necessary food and clothing shops, as well as a cinema. At the beginning of the year, there was a commserve social gathering to meet others, and during the year, we would have regular staff socials, braais at each other’s houses, meet at coffee shops, go for drinks and dinner at the local restaurants/bars, play putt putt, do the Kimberley park run on Saturday mornings; there’s the famous Big Hole which is definitely a highlight of Kimberley; various museums and art galleries; and several game parks/reserves such as Mokala National Park where you can go on game drives. People also enjoyed travelling to Bloemfontein which is about an hour and a half away.

Overall, I definitely recommend Kimberley as an option for community service. You work hard but gain incredible work experience in the acute setting, and develop invaluable skills over the year. Furthermore, the large commserve group at KHC allows for new friendships and regular social get-togethers. I have really enjoyed doing my community service at KHC.

My advice to students choosing their placement is to consider the following information:

  • tertiary hospital vs. district hospital;
  • availability of permanent supervisors;
  • access to necessary shops; and access to transport.

Tertiary hospitals involve larger and varied caseloads and access to more resources, which is beneficial for gaining working experience. Personally, I feel that as a commserve, it is always best if you have a senior therapist available to guide you and to learn from. It is after all, a year of learning. In addition, think about how far you’re willing to travel for groceries and other necessities on a regular basis. Wherever you end up being placed, you will be making a difference in that community, and it’s all about making the most of that experience.”



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