Assist in a busy hospital in
the heart of Cape Town
A perfect experience if you are embarking on a career in medicine
- Selected Sunday start dates throughout the year
- Selected Sunday start dates throughout the year
South Africa medical volunteers
Gain valuable experience assisting in a busy clinic in the heart of Cape Town which provides free healthcare to those in most need. You will be able to observe and work alongside local medical professionals where you will gain a greater appreciation and understanding of some of the challenges that South Africa faces.
Not only this, but you will get to witness a variety of cases and observe different medical practices that offer a fantastic contrast to what you may find in your local hospital at home.
Whether you are taking your elective placement in South Africa, are looking to put your skills to good use or are just wanting to gain some medical experience, this is a unique chance to assist in simple but practical ways while exploring everything this amazing country has to offer.
Get ready for some unforgettable memories both inside and out of the hospital. If you're looking for an adventure while volunteering then we cannot think of anywhere better than Cape Town. During your free time you can head out on safari, visit world famous beaches, climb Table Mountain and so much more.
Background to the medical programme
The South African healthcare system today has seen great improvements over the past century, especially post-apartheid. Although most of South Africa’s hospitals are now public hospitals offering free services, these tend to be overcrowded, under-resourced and understaffed - leading to long waiting times and at times inadequate services being provided. The standard of medical care in public hospitals can range from acceptable to very low, plagued by problems such as old or broken equipment, medication shortages and lack of staff. These problems have led to an inability to always treat everyone who attends these very busy environments.
With a rising population and a recent influx of refugees from surrounding countries, the already over burdened health care system is only going to get worse in the near future.
South Africa has more people living with HIV/AIDS than any other country in the world. It is estimated that 5.3 million people are thought to be living with the disease - over 15% of the population. Not only this, but other diseases arising from poverty and non-communicable illnesses such as bacterial diarrhoea, typhoid fever and malnutrition, contribute to many preventable deaths each and every year.
Although in the more built up cities such as Cape Town there is a good infrastructure of private medical centres and emergency services, these are generally only accessible by 20% of the wealthiest population. There remains a wide disparity between the private and public sector and for the meantime, this is thought to only be getting worse.
So as a volunteer, your help is invaluable! You will be placed in a small but busy clinic in the heart of Cape Town that offers free healthcare to those most in need. You will play a huge role in cutting down the waiting times, offering an additional pair of hands to the doctors and nurses and building a good rapport with patients as you work as a medical assistant. Your time in South Africa will make a massive difference and will be hugely appreciated by both the patients and the other staff at the clinic.
Where will I be volunteering?
Green Point Clinic - Green Point Clinic was established in the early 90’s shortly after the fall of Apartheid. It was initially used for the overflow of patients from the nearby Somerset Hospital to deal with less urgent or less serious cases and it has remained this way ever since. The clinic provides day-to-day medical services and these are generally of a minor nature - they cater for outpatients strictly i.e. no overnight wards or patients.
The clinic offers the usual doctor/GP visits with 3 full-time doctors on duty, health check-ups by one of the 15 nurses on duty, two 6-bed wards for stabilizing patients (with asthma, irregular blood sugar levels, physical injuries, etc.), a Gynaecologist on duty, a baby clinic for infant treatments and check-ups as well as a pharmaceutical dispensary.
The clinic is also very focused on improving the general physical and mental health of people in the community - various awareness and support programs are also offered and these include diabetes management, HIV/AIDS awareness, special childcare and healthy living (nutrition), as well as day-to-day self-medical care. Physiotherapy and psychology/counselling services are also offered on certain days of the week.
What is my role?
Your role on the medical programme will be largely observational, however, you will also be assigned some basic hands-on involvement. Any activities will be carried out under the supervision of a medical professional and could include the following:
Assessment & care duties - You will play a vital role in assisting the local staff with the daily tasks and general patient check ups. This can include checking blood pressures, breathing rates, pulse and temperatures. You could also be involved with physical examinations of the height and weight of patients and building the medical history by obtaining important information on past medical history, medications and allergies.
Testing duties - At times you may also be able to collect samples of urine or blood to transport down to the laboratory for testing.
Preparation duties - To ensure the swift treatment of patients, part of your duties will include readying them for testing, treatment or procedures to be carried out by the doctor. This can include activities such as removing bandages or cleaning a wound.
Clerical duties - Updating the patient files and charts is really helpful for the busy nurses and doctors. You may also help with the scheduling of future appointments, manage cancellations and assist in clinic administration as part of your volunteering role.
Ad hoc duties - You may also be able to participate in home visits in rural areas to help with vaccinations or care for immobilised patients, assist midwives out on their visits or join in on the group counselling sessions or awareness drives when available.
During your time in South Africa you will discover new perspectives and cultural attitudes towards medicine, learn how to collaborate with people from a different culture and develop a range of new skills. You will gain hands on training, supervised by experienced English-speaking medical experts. This is your chance to vastly increase your own knowledge by being fully involved in the day-to-day activities of the hospital, observing the doctors and nurses and helping out in simple but practical ways.
Our South Africa medical experience welcomes people from all backgrounds. So if you have just left school and are looking for experience to boost your university application (pre-med), currently a university student organising an elective placement overseas or are a trained professional - this is the perfect programme for you.
Due to the nature of the hospital, I'm afraid we are unable to allocate you to specific wards or tasks. You will spend your time helping the staff where it is most required and each day will bring something new.
What will a typical day look like?
Your varied role and the ever-changing scenarios of the clinic will mean every day is different. You will be typically volunteering from 8:00am to 3.00pm Monday to Friday.
You will be responsible for making your own way to the clinic each day. You can expect the journey to take no more than 30 minutes and our local team will advise and assist with your transport. Alternatively, you will be paired with a volunteer that has been there some time already.
Once you have finished for the day, most volunteers meet back at the volunteer accommodation before heading out and enjoying everything the city has to offer. With amazing beaches just down the road, lots of restaurants and quirky cafes on your doorstep and so much more to see and do around Cape Town, your evenings and weekends will be action packed.
Where will I be staying?
During your time in South Africa you will be staying at the volunteer house located in the Observatory district (known locally as ‘Obz’) - one of the more affluent areas. This is Cape Town’s most bohemian suburb with many boutique shops, restaurants and cafes just a short 10 minute walk away.
The volunteer house is perfectly located to take advantage of everything Cape Town has to offer. You can easily access the beautiful beaches such as Clifton and Camps Bay, head to famous Long Street, go shopping at the V&A Waterfront and so much more.
Other things to consider
Level of involvement - Your level of involvement will be dictated by a range of factors including your medical experience, duration of program and willingness to get involved. The local medical staff are accountable for you whilst you’re under their supervision and ultimately, it is completely their decision whether or not you are permitted to get involved in hands-on procedures.
Trained professionals - We welcome trained and qualified professionals to come and assist on our medical programme in South Africa. However, your role within the hospital will be very limited and for this reason we would recommend our programmes in Ghana, Tanzania or India.
Weekends and free time - You will have every weekend off from volunteering and this is the perfect time to explore everything this beautiful country has to offer. You are more than welcome to simply relax around the accommodation and enjoy the nearby beaches, but most volunteers will use this time to travel and see the country. Further down this page you will come across many suggestions and ideas on where you could go. Alternatively, if you are looking to head further afield, then you may be interested in one or more of the organised weekend trips we run.
The most amazing experience
I had the most amazing experience volunteering in a clinic in Cape Town for three weeks. This was all organised through The Mighty Roar. My original plans to travel to Sri Lanka for 5 weeks had to be cancelled and the team helped me rearrange everything ... Read More
The most amazing experience
I had the most amazing experience volunteering in a clinic in Cape Town for three weeks. This was all organised through The Mighty Roar. My original plans to travel to Sri Lanka for 5 weeks had to be cancelled and the team helped me rearrange everything at the last minute which I’m very grateful for.