Faculty of Health Sciences


Purpose of the Programme

 The aim of this programme is to train a new level of a medical worker called a clinical associate. 

This medical worker is equipped with the necessary professional knowledge, skills and an attitude to work under the supervision of doctors in district hospitals to assist them with emergency care, procedures, and in-patient care to improve the quality of life of the people served.  

Delivery Mode

The Faculty of Health Sciences of the Walter Sisulu University has implemented a student-centred, problem-based, integrated, community-orientated and community-based curriculum that includes electives, is systematic and promotes self-directed learning (SPICES model).

The educational strategies of the Clinical Associate Programme are based on this model.

A key instructional method is a small group learning in the form of problem-based Learning (PBL) tutorials of 8-12 students.

Each group has a tutor who acts as the facilitator for the group. Patient presentations are used as triggers for learning. This requires students to acquire their knowledge in an integrated manner as they analyse the presented problems, identify the biological aspects (including the anatomical, physiological and historical) aspects of the problem as well as the psychological and social considerations that they need to understand in order to help the patient. 

Patient presentations, bedside teaching, expert resource sessions, seminars, ward rounds and lectures supplement the PBL tutorials with a special emphasis on skills training relevant to assisting physicians with emergency and inpatient hospital care.

Entry Requirements

Senior Certificate

  • Student intake is determined by a structured selection process, whereby academic and personal attributes are given equal importance.
  • From 2009, a national Senior Certificate (NSC) will be required with an achievement rating of 4 (50% or better) in four recognised NSC 20-credit subjects: English, Mathematics, Biology and Physical Science.

National Senior Certificate (NSC)

Compulsory Subjects

  • 4 (50-59%) in English at Home Language or First Additional Language Level
  • 4 (50-59%) in Mathematics
  • 4 (50-59%) in Physical Science
  • 4 (50-59%) in Life Sciences

Not Compulsory Subjects

  • 4 (50-59%) in isiXhosa
  • 4 (50-59%) in Life Orientation

Learners who register for this qualification at Level 7 will also need to have the following:

  • The ability to communicate in English at NQF level 4 because most of the textbooks and documentation will be in English;
  • The ability to communicate in isiXhosa as most of the patents are isiXhosa speaking. There is a course in isiXhosa offered by the University Department of African languages and a language laboratory to assist with the learning.
  • All non-isiXhosa speaking students will be required to pass that course before proceeding to clinical contact with patients.

Selection Procedures

Students are selected on the basis of their academic achievements. The selection committee is made up of members of the Faculty.


All students must register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) at the beginning of the first year of study. Students will not be allowed to proceed to the clinical training modules without HPCSA registration.

Duration of the Programme

Three years full-time.

Exit Level Outcomes

Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Practice (minimum of 360 credits) eligible for registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa as a Clinical Associate.  

Critical Outcomes

Upon the successful completion of the Degree in Medical Clinical Practice, the student is expected to be able to:

  • Perform a patient-centred consultation across all ages in a district hospital
  • Apply clinical reasoning in the assessment and management of patients
  • Perform investigative and therapeutic procedures appropriate for a district hospital
  • Prescribe appropriate medication within the scope of practice
  • Provide emergency care, facilitate communication and provide basic counselling
  • Function as an effective member of the health care team
  • Produce and maintain clinical records
  • Function as an ethical practitioner
  • Demonstrate ongoing learning in clinical practice
  • Integrate an understanding of family, community and health system in practice.

Summary of Courses and Credits

The content of the programme focuses on the important health problems in the community with a particular focus on the skills necessary to equip the Clinical Associate to assist doctors working in district hospitals with emergency care, procedures and inpatient care.


The programme is structured in terms of the following key features:


The curriculum is organised into two phases as follows:

Phase 1: Years 1 and 2

Phase 2:  Year 3.


The content in Phase 1 and Phase 2 is organised into modules. Two foundation modules are taught daily for the first 10-11 weeks of each of the three years at the Main Campus.

The core modules for the first and second-year levels are based on body systems.

During the third year, the core modules are based on themes. In addition, the students complete two elective modules from a prescribed list.  


The Foundation modules (skills and human biology) are offered at increasing levels of depth each of the three years.

All of the body systems are introduced in the first year and repeated in the second year again at a deeper level.

This way of arranging modules not only reinforces what is learned in previous years but also introduces new information at a higher level at a later stage.

Students are, therefore, introduced to advanced knowledge and skills when they are better prepared for them.

The thematic modules (given in the final year) follow the body systems modules, consolidating and taking previous knowledge and clinical skills to a higher level still.


The curriculum is integrated horizontally and vertically. Integration breaks boundaries between disciplines and enables all aspects of a problem to be learned at the same time. Integration also introduces students to a holistic approach to clinical medical practice.  

Early Clinical Contact

Students are introduced to early clinical work during their first year. Only the Foundation modules are taught away from clinical practice.

Learning in the District

The District Health Complexes, composed of District Hospitals with Learning/Service Centres, Community Health Centres, Clinics, and NGOs are part of the teaching complex of the University used to train health professionals.

Thus, the teaching of students in this programme not only takes place at the Main Campus but also in the district, as occurs with other student health professionals.  

Clinical Skills Lab

Skills training is done in the skills laboratory, ensuring that students have had an opportunity to practice their skills before performing them on patients.  

Expert Resource Sessions

These sessions are done by video conferencing whereby a number of students from different district sites are connected. Expert resource sessions are conducted as seminars for the areas are identified by staff or students as it is difficult to cover in the tutorial system.