Frequently Unanswered Questions

Long ago I answered some random search items that lead readers to this blog. It’s been three years, so here are some more.

This one goes out to all the poor misguided souls who Googled something, landed up here and still did not get their answers. I apologise profusely.

Why does UFS still offer the five-year program for Medicine?

This one is up for debate. I have it from a reliable source that the University of the Free State started offering the five-year MB.ChB. in an effort to alleviate the chronic doctor-shortage in South Africa (as did the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Walter Sisulu University). Because studying medicine in five short years as an undergraduate is pretty difficult, the latter two have re-converted to the six-year program. UFS, apparently, has elected not to do so because of budgetary constraints. Or perhaps because they yield excellent graduates. I don’t think any official statement exists.

Is Medicine at [insert university] really as difficult as they say it is?

Maybe. Some people sail through med school and other stroll along and others really struggle. Prepare yourself for the fact that it might be the most difficult thing you have ever done.

Via The Health Scout, click for source

When do medical students get paid in South Africa?

When they have graduated and have a job. In other words, medical students don’t get paid. I don’t know where this myth originated, because when I was in high school I believed it too. But as a final year student I can tell you: you really don’t.

Easy way to study medicine

There isn’t one… sorry.

Via Med School Sketches, click for source

Medical school in South Africa for international students

I’ve spoken to a few universities and it appears that South African med schools are by and large moving away from admitting international students. This is not a case of xenophobia, rather it is in response to the country already having a shortage of medical graduates every year. Namibian students used to be accepted, but the country now has its own medical school. However, it seems that an international student who has residency in South Africa does have a chance of getting accepted.

Why are doctors weird?

Uhm.. what? I don’t know why doctors are weird. Because they work hours that are too long to remain sane? Because there is no grey area for them between being idolised or being reviled? Gosh, I don’t know! [But there’s also this GIF-post…]

Can I still say Injured on Duty the next day if I did not notice the injury?

Yes. Well, I don’t know about legally, but if you were injured in a way that requires treatment or prophylaxis: get help ASAP. In the case of HIV-exposure it is best to start prophylaxis within three hours, but it can still be started up to 72 hours post-exposure.

white tongue/hiv tongue/syphilis tongue

Wow! People have an unhealthy obsession with tongues! Or maybe people are researching some weird stuff. I wrote about strawberry tongue ONCE, I kid you not. ANYWAY, I’ve done everyone a favour and found a really good resource from Stanford about the tongue in medicine, here. Enjoy!

I’ve been wanting to use this picture in a post!

% medical students who can’t suture

Well, I haven’t seen a study on this one, but my guess is: A LOT. The thing about being a student is that you do rotations, so on your surgical rotation you may become really adept at suturing, and later that year find yourself with two left hands again. Use it or lose it – that’s the way it is.

I was going to post a picture of some sutures being practised on a banana – but this pic is way cuter.

Phew. My eyes hurt from scanning through all those search terms now. I’ve left the more questionable ones out because, well, I’m trying to keep this sort-of PG.


  1. KokkieH says:

    You are a very conscientious blogger actually giving serious answers to the search terms. Most people (myself included) merely make fun of them 😉

    For the record, I don’t think doctors are weird, merely intimidating. I mean, they stare down death on a daily basis and probably know hundreds of ways to kill you or to inflict unspeakable pain without leaving a trace. That’s why I’m always nice to doctors (though I did very nearly punch the one who jabbed his fingers into my abdomen to check whether I might have appendicitis (I had, so I was in too much pain to actually move my arms when he did that)).

    1. I wanted to make fun of them but then they weren’t as funny as I originally thought they were 😛
      I’ve had a patient swing at me for feeling their abdomen, actually. They had perforated bowel (very painful too) and were in and out of consciousness so… I ducked.

      1. KokkieH says:

        So, you’re saying one needs quick reflexes to be a doctor 😀

  2. Haha, you get some strange search requests that lead to your blog. Well, I mean, I guess they do make some sense since your blog involves being a medical student. But still. Why are doctors weird? lol. I wonder if that person was really hoping for a honest explanation of the weirdness of doctors. 😛

    1. Ditto! And also, I wonder what led to them asking it. Was a doctor weird to them, and like funny-weird or mean-weird? Keeps me up at night! Or… actually maybe not 😉

  3. Very interesting… I also believed you get paid while working in a hospital…

    1. I think there used to be an arrangement like that but our health budget obviously can’t currently afford it. Maybe that’s where it came from. Or maybe because a lot of people get confused between being a med student and being an intern, since interns (graduates) do get paid.

      1. But very little? Are you doing ‘real’ doctors work as a student?

      2. For new graduates, Interns actually get paid a decent sum. Maybe not so decent considering the amount of hours compared to regular 9-to-5, but definitely a good living wage. Yeah, we do a bunch of “real” work – bloods, lumbar punctures, seeing patients in emergency areas, paperwork, porting patients around because the porters in the hospital are always missing. A lot of it is scut but it is hard work and one has to find the time to study in between too. The general feeling is that students shouldn’t be so abused with these little tasks because as we don’t get paid, our job is to LEARN how to be doctors and not to run around doing errands all day. It’s pretty convoluted though because a lot of the errands are valuable skills.

  4. Cait says:

    Wow, you get some seriously interesting search results questions. 😉 I get ones like “why do my glasses get smudges”. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW? Apparently Google thinks my blog has the answers to that one?? Mm…

    1. Why do glasses get smudges?! Because… you touched them? Someone touched them? Water vapour? Meh, that IS a weird question!

  5. Read Robyn says:

    You guys practice suturing on bananas? We practice on sponges. Maybe bananas are in shorter supply here. . . x)

    1. Nah, officially we practice on sponges too, and also on the skin of freshly slaughtered pig! But I practiced on bananas because apparently it is a pretty good simulation. I hated practicing on sponges, I didn’t feel that it prepared me for the real thing at all!

      1. Read Robyn says:

        Having done the real thing after practicing on sponges – it really doesn’t! Bananas are a good tip, thank you. ^^

  6. harveylisam says:

    I love looking through the searches that led people to my blog. As for your questions/answers, I particularly love “why are doctors weird?” Haha, if only I had an answer. 😉

  7. Toyosi14 says:

    I love your work! 😀
    I do have one question though.
    From your experience, are the textbooks used in the MB,ChB program at Stellenbosch in English or Afrikaans?

    1. Thank you!
      All textbooks at Stellenbosch are English, in fact, only a few are optionally available in Afrikaans. Lectures are different though, as some lectures are offered in Afrikaans (theoretically it should be 50-50 English and Afrikaans, but these days it is mostly English). By faculty guidelines all class notes are available in English and Afrikaans, though. Hope that helps!

  8. Toyosi14 says:

    It helps indeed, thank you. 🙂

  9. lihle ngindi says:

    hi, I’m currently 13 and i was just wondering if you can study here in south africa and then do your residency in another country or is it compulsory that you complete it here. i was also wondering if i could be a doctor because people tell me that by the time i get to high school i will longer want to be a doctor.

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