Rebuilding Nursing Image in the Spotlight at Provincial Nurses' Day
At an event attended by approximately 400 nurses of the Western Cape Department of Health, the provincial Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, said that the rebuilding of the social image of nursing fits in with the department's Healthcare 2020 objective - putting the patient first. The event was hosted at Nelson's Creek Estate in the Winelands.
"It is vital that the community must regain their trust in nurses and, in this manner, nurses will maintain their dignity as very special professionals. This requires commitment towards our strategic goals of which the most important is the dignity of our patients," said Minister Botha.
He said that nurses form 41% of the department's human resource capacity - exactly 12 162 of the staff component of 29 650. The breakdown of current nursing staff numbers is as follows:
- Managers and professional nurses: 5 221.
- Community service nurses: 432.
- Staff nurses and nursing assistants: 6 442.
- Nursing lecturers: 67.
Internationally, the theme for this year's Nurses' Day is "Closing the Gap, from Evidence to Action". Minister Botha said that "nursing is a key role player in the health service environment to combat and decrease the burden of disease".
Nursing through evidence-based research is addressing the factors as captured in the Millennium Development Goals and National Strategic Directives for Health. These Millennium Development Goals are:
- Aims to reduce infant mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
- Calls for increased efforts to improve maternal health, especially to reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio and achieve universal access to reproductive health.
- Aims to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases.
Minister Botha made special mention of Sister Fahwaa Samodien, operational manager for the paediatric ward at Somerset Hospital for the past 24 years and Western Cape winner of the Florence Nightingale Award. She has been a nurse for 30 years. "She is a true role model and I am grateful that she has received recognition for her dedication to this profession."
Nurses should take personal responsibility for the enhancing of this profession by ensuring excellent nursing care to our patients. "It is your passion that will bring about the difference," said Minister Botha.
The Current Status of Nurses in Training in the Western Cape
- The University of the Western Cape student population is 1 035, of which 228 are first-year students.
- The Western Cape College of Nursing student population is 1 348 of which 420 are first-year students.
- We have 143 students studying as general nurses.
Post-Basic Qualifications (Speciality Nursing):
- We have 281 specialty nursing students.
The Western Cape Department of Health is now in the process of opening nursing training institutions in all districts to address the training needs of the department and improve the recruitment of qualified nurses. This is also to ensure that skilled, knowledgeable and competent nursing staff is available and accessible to our patients in the districts.
Minister Botha outlined the main challenges for nursing in the Western Cape:
- Insufficient funding for relief posts, community service posts and graduate bursar posts.
- There is still a shortage of nurses in the specialty stream. However, an active provincial training plan has been implemented to address this challenge.
- Limited accredited clinical placement for nursing students.
- The poor public image of nursing which is preventing patients from building a positive relationship with nursing professionals.
Challenges within the Nursing Education System are the Following:
- The academically and socially under-prepared student.
- Socio-economic background which causes an increase in absenteeism.
- Approach of quantity vs quality.
- Student's attitude towards the community, value systems and discipline.
- Institutional capacity - lecturers vs student ratios, residents, food.
- Catchment area: where the students are coming from.
- Progressive disappearance of educational role of the professional nurse in the services.
- Changes - move to higher education, curriculum, compliance with framework, SANC regulations.
- "Silver Tsunami" (Large exodus of experienced older nurses and small amounts of younger nurses coming into the services).
- Bursary system/placement vacancies (The amount of students granted bursaries in direct correlation to available vacancies).
- Professional development of academic staff.
Minister Botha said that he is inspired daily by the commitment that he sees in the Department of Health. "Nursing is for the dedicated, the workaholic, and the ones with never-ending energy. We will not fail you. Together we will close the gap. Together we will move from evidence to action."