put boundaries in place and not become too emotionally involved.”
Patients may also become angry, shout or react in an irrational way. Psychiatrists must be prepared for these confrontations and be able to handle them professionally. “I can’t say my life has ever been in any real danger,” says Rykie. “But sometimes it can be a challenge to handle the bizarre and sometimes scary delusions of some patients.”
Psychiatrists in private practice are able to choose where they work and have the flexibility to choose their work hours. In state hospitals conditions may not be as ideal and the work load is heavy. “Even if conditions are challenging you can still be a successful psychiatrist because fancy equipment isn’t always a prerequisite to help someone,” says Rykie. “All a psychiatrist really needs is a piece of paper, a pen and his or her mind.”
Rykie’s journey into the profession was not a typical one. She was one of the first five women to qualify as a medical doctor at Bloemfontein Medical School. After completing her medical degree, residency and community service, she worked at various outreach and mission hospitals.
It was after working as a GP in Kimberley for ten years that Rykie decided to specialise in psychiatry. She returned to Gauteng as a registrar at Wits University. During the next four years, she worked at various state hospitals and entered private practice in 2002.
The medical profession is changing and the youth are sometimes discouraged from pursuing a career in medicine. “I feel that it’s still a calling,” Rykie points out. “If you’re interested in medicine and believe it to be your passion, then you should pursue it, despite the negativity from some quarters. There is a huge shortage of psychiatrists in South Africa today, so there is great potentia for growth within the career.”