Strategy to upgrade South Africa’s nursing profession!

Posted by on Oct 1, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Strategy to upgrade South Africa’s nursing profession!
Strategy to upgrade South Africa’s nursing profession!

A growing imperative – to implement a strategy to upgrade South Africa’s nursing profession! 

Nursing is one of the most honorable professions, yet adverse conduct of poorly trained nurses is witnessed in South Africa’s hospitals and clinics on a daily basis. The local healthcare sector – both public and private — urgently needs more nurses with advanced nursing skills and leadership education, which in short calls for a long overdue shake-up of the nursing profession. A general consensus is held that the training provided by some nurse’s colleges fail to adequately prepare trainees in theoretical knowledge and expected outcomes (specialist theory and practical experience) necessary to execute relevant duties to a professional standard.

In 2012 the National Department of Health convened a nursing summit to address nursing challenges in the country. From that summit, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi appointed a ministerial task-team to develop a plan of action to address education and practice issues to rebuild and revitalize South Africa’s flagging nursing fraternity. The Minister launched the National Strategic Plan for Nurse Education, Training and Practice for 2012/13 – 2016/17. It is critical that South Africa’s healthcare system be brought up to standard by the time the National Health Insurance rolls out, to ensure that nurses are fully operational to address the country’s healthcare needs.

Lifelong Learning

The healthcare sector is regularly criticized for its lack of resources, inconsistent staff-patient ratios, poor management, long queues and waiting times, and overall lack of sanitation control. The plan focuses on fostering a culture of lifelong learning in an effort to attain high standards of professionalism and well-resourced practice environments for nurses and midwives. It also aims to boost strong leadership skills at all levels within the healthcare sector, including advanced clinical skills in mental health nursing, pediatric nursing and post-operatory nursing. Nursing is a lifelong educational commitment. Working nurses will be duty-bound to go back to school to constantly upgrade their credentials to gain greater employability, higher salaries, and explore diverse career options in fields like disaster response, emergency preparedness, and wellness promotion. While many leadership education programs do not require you to be a nurse, they do help refine communications skills; teach the fundamentals of healthcare economics; identify and harness resources; and relate critical thinking to problem solving.

SA Nursing Council at helm

Regulations affirm that all nursing colleges in the country have until 2015 to upgrade their syllabus and tertiary education methodology to meet the criteria to register as higher education and training institutions with the Council of Higher Education. This means about 300 operational nursing colleges will not only be regulated by the SA Nursing Council, but will also have to be declared higher education institutions in compliance with the provisions of the Higher Education Act (as amended in 2008). The qualifications of teachers and lecturers will be scrutinized. The expectation is that professional nurses on completion of their studies would be competent to run wards and teach junior nurses. Professional nurses must be trained to drive an ambulance, serve as an undertaker, and adapt to work proficiently in poorly equipped facilities, operate a generator, and practice transpersonal human care and caring to facilitate patient recovery. The intention of higher education is also to increase the number of nurses accredited to initiate anti-retroviral treatment without a doctor.

Retired Nurses’ Forum

In an effort to preserve task-specific expertise within the healthcare sector members of the Retired Nurses’ Forum agree to guide and mentor ward sisters, student nurses and new recruits to correct behavior that is observed as not professional, reinforce a personal approach to professionalism, and inspire excellence. Proficient retired nurses work in labour wards, primary healthcare services, port health at the airports, complaints line, hospital wards and intensive care depending on their area of expertise or where most needed.

Health Infrastructure 

Trends in 21st Century nursing are increasingly driven by professionalization and specialization, wider use of technology without compromising the nurturing and human touch aspects of early nursing, and equal gender representation in the profession. Problems that provoke criticism must be promptly investigated and resolved. Calculated planning, development and management of human resources are critical facets to enhance the healthcare sector; its vital to verify how many nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, pharmacists are needed. Who pays them? What further training is needed? Where should they get training? What criteria determines the level of quality care? Is nursing a gender-bias profession? Nursing has traditionally been a female occupation but need not continue to be so; equal gender representation in the nursing profession is a crucial consideration. Equal numbers of male and female nurses should be trained to fully serve the nation.

Theory of Caring

Modern technology facilitates greater opportunities for nurses to provide increased comfort and care to their patient that was unimaginable a few decades ago. It has however created new problems: the caring and nurturing nurse, who in the beginning was an extension of family-centered nurse-patient healing, is often turned into a technician using sophisticated equipment. This theoretical detachment threatens to marginalize the human aspect of nursing; the modern dilemma is to find the balance between the core concept of personal care and the use of modern technology in professional nursing. The role of a professional nurse also involves taking pride in her work and reputation, and always taking steps to learn more, acquiring additional skills, and helping fellow nurses succeed.

Recruiting rural job seekers 

South Africa needs more professional nurses. The department intends to recruit and train young unemployed people from rural areas who wish to become professional nurses. The expectation is that they would go back to their communities and be offered employment to make a difference.  While many nurses might have undergone basic training as assistant nurses they are by today’s standards unemployable because they are under-qualified.

The burden of disease in South Africa is huge. HIV/AIDS in South Africa remains a prominent health concern and the impact on children has been vast. Large-scale communication campaigns to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, counseling and testing, as well as broader treatment programs are sustained. About a quarter of Tuberculosis (TB) cases in Africa occur in South Africa, with more than 389,000 South Africans getting the disease annually. A concern is that TB cure rates have dropped significantly as a growing number of cases are emerging drug-resistant. Re-engineering primary health care (PHC) in the country involves intensifying health education programs to reduce people’s vulnerability to diseases, promote health and longevity, and reduce maternal and child mortality.

Every citizen deserves access to PHC  

Primary Health Care means moving away from a curative health-care system towards programs that prevent diseases and promote optimal health. The goal is to reduce people’s vulnerability to diseases so that fewer depend on the healthcare system. The current healthcare system is slowly evolving into a new system built on a vision of health promotion, primary care and community-based home care, with hospitals still being a core pillar of the healthcare system but not its primary service. The strengths-based approach requires a new set of values that allow for innovative solutions to long-standing problems. It is about restoring the centrality of the nurse–patient relationship to promote wellness and to facilitate healing and in so doing, support professional nursing practice.

Words by Theresa Lutge-Smith (; nursing in South Africa is in crisis, with a third of nurses admitting they moonlight and half saying they feel exhausted at work. There is a severe shortage of nurses, leaving those in the system overworked.

Copyright 2013 : Achiever magazine

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