The fruits of an eight-year-long, arduous community endeavour are now evident in the Potchefstroom Hospital project. This undertaking has been consistently fuelled by the unwavering passion, dedication and commitment of the staff who have been involved since 2014. The roots of the project can be traced back to the BEdHons in educational psychology curriculum of the North-West University (NWU), which has a strong emphasis on practical community engagement in its modules.
Dr Lynn Preston, subject group leader for Educational Psychology at the NWU, says the BEdHons programme, which involves interacting with individuals, communities, and society, starts earlier in the year than other honours-degree programmes.
“The students are required to achieve a level of general proficiency before they embark on community engagement tasks and start their academic journey. Their hard work and dedication are showcased in their final oral exam presentations and the submission of their portfolios at the end of the second semester.”
The BEdHons students in educational psychology are fully involved in community engagement initiatives, supporting various clinics at the Potchefstroom Hospital. Here they are under the supervision of the study group lecturers and the watchful eye of professional mentors who aid the students in their learning, development and clinical processes.
According to Dr Wanda van der Merwe, educational psychology lecturer, the Potchefstroom Hospital project involves providing support to three primary healthcare clinics. The Prem Lilies group at the Neonatal Unit is a remarkable initiative that caters for the needs of new mothers, guardians and fathers of premature babies.
“These parents are often vulnerable, and the student support group offers them a safe space to share their experiences, seek guidance and receive wellness counselling. The BEdHons students lead this group and conduct several wellness counselling sessions and wellness programmes to ensure that the parents receive the best support,” she says.
Dr Elmari Fouché, also a lecturer in educational psychology, also emphasise the importance of supportive wellness counselling to improve the well-being of the families.
Another clinic that has been instrumental in providing essential healthcare services to the community is the reproductive health clinic at the Potchefstroom Hospital. The clinic has a dedicated team of professionals who provide comprehensive care to patients seeking reproductive health services. Staff and the patients in this clinic are supported by the BEdHons students.
Recently, the students celebrated World Contraception Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about reproductive health. The theme of the day was "The Power of Options," through which the students emphasised the importance of making informed choices about one's reproductive health. The reproductive health nurse and the doctor provided medical input by discussing various contraceptive options available, and the students promoted the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) as a reliable contraceptive method.
“The Peter Parrot Children and Mothers Club in the children's ward is yet another initiative that has made a significant impact on the lives of children and their mothers over the years of community engagement at the Potchefstroom Hospital. The friendly character of Peter Parrot is used to make the children feel comfortable and at ease during their medical visits and medical procedures. This initiative has been a source of comfort and joy to many families, and it is heartening to see the positive impact it has had on the children's lives,” says Dr Van der Merwe.
“Overall, these clinics and initiatives are a testament to the dedication and commitment of healthcare professionals and the NWU BEdHons students and Educational Psychology subject group staff. They have made a significant difference in the lives of many families over the years, and their efforts are truly commendable,” adds Dr Preston.
Educational Psychology subject group members Dr Wanda van der Merwe, Elmaré Mong, Jaco van der Merwe, Dr Elmari Fouché and Dr Lynn Preston.
The BEdHons students had a productive year supporting the children’s ward in collaboration with Sister Ouma Makhoere.
Acting operational manager in the ICU, Sister Pauline Temanie, Dr Elmari Fouché and Dr Wanda van der Merwe.
BEdHons students with Sister Ditsetelo, showing their love after a wonderful year of collaboration with the reproductive health clinic.
Reproductive health nurse Sister Ditsetelo and Maureen Sekano, a social worker, promote the use of contraceptives for World Contraception Day.