Our “So you want to be…” weekly series aims to help you in the process of choosing a career. We will be speaking to a practising professional to tell us what to expect in their field of work. This week, we speak to Onke Tshiki, a 31-year-old psychiatrist at Crescent Clinic in Claremont, Cape Town. Onke has been a practising psychiatrist for a year now.
Sinayo for Live SA: How would you describe what you do?
Onke Tshiki: You’re basically helping people deal with problems in their lives. They could be around personal relationships, their jobs, drugs and alcohol or psychiatric diagnosis-related issues such as: psychotic disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, stress and trauma related disorders or eating disorders just to name a few.
Live SA: Where did you study and for how long?
Onke Tshiki: I did my undergraduate studies in bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery (MBChB) at the University of Natal (2006) and my postgraduate studies in psychiatry (Mmed Psychiatry and Fellow of the College Medicine SA) at the University of Cape Town (2013). These institutions are among the top 500 universities worldwide and they are good research universities.
Live SA: What does your job entail?
Onke Tshiki: I start the day by reviewing and managing patients that have been admitted by a multidisciplinary team due to severity of their symptoms. Then I see follow-up patients at my therapeutic rooms for the rest of the day. One is never really off as a doctor or psychiatrist because patients can deteriorate at anytime and may need one’s urgent help and management.
Live SA: What is the most challenging thing about what you do?
Onke Tshiki: It’s dealing with the individual patient problems. Getting their life story, figuring out what makes them tick and giving advice that’s applicable to them, their psychology, and their situation.
Live SA: What university/college (if applicable) courses (related or unrelated) do you think are key when pursuing this career and why?
Onke Tshiki: One has to study medicine (MBChB) from any recognised university and complete all necessary training. Then one has to train in psychiatry, rotating through all offered courses by The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and The Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA)
Live SA: What are some of the misconceptions young people have about the job?
Onke Tshiki: Some think we do the same work as psychologists and others think that we can read minds. The difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specialises in psychiatry (mental health) and clinical psychologists are therapists who treat mental illnesses using different therapeutic frames; but they can’t treat patients using medication because they are not medical doctors. There are also young people who are ignorant about mental illness, assuming that it is contagious.
Live SA: What type of person do you have to be to find this job rewarding?
Onke Tshiki: If you’re a person who cares about people and are empathetic, then this job is for you.