SA in critical condition with reference to nurses
South Africa will face a crisis regarding the shortage of nurses if their working environment is not urgently attended to. As part of an international research study, Registered Nurse Forecast (RN4CAST), Dr Siedine Coetzee and Prof Hester Klopper at the North-West University’s (NWU's) School of Nursing Science have recently completed a study that paints a bleak picture.
“54,4% of nurses stated that they intend to leave their place of employment in the next year. Almost half of all nurses are feeling burned out and 32,2% are dissatisfied with their jobs.”
Dr Coetzee says the high degree of burnout is related to dissatisfaction with salaries, opportunities for advancement, study leave and a work environment with inadequate staffing and resources, and lack of nurse participation in hospital affairs.
According to the International Council of Nurses this shortage is reaching critical levels. South Africa currently has a thinly distributed 39,3 nurses per 10 000 of the population. This earns us 61st position in the world rankings. The best performing country, Ireland, currently has 152 nurses for every 10 000 people. South Africa even has to yield to smaller and less developed countries such as Gabon, the Bahamas and Swaziland.
Prof Klopper, also president of one of the largest nursing organisations in the world (Sigma Theta Tau International), says that even more disquieting is the fact that there is an increased shortage of nurses in the public sector that serves approximately 80% of the South African population. “The reason is that private hospitals reap a large percentage of nurses. The shortage of nurses in rural areas particularly is such that these patients hardly receive the treatment that is needed particularly due to long waiting hours at clinics. These shortages, among other things, present an enormous challenge for the expansion of AIDS treatment in the country.”
Their research showed that 71% of nurses in the public sector rated their work environment as poor or fair. This is disconcerting, since research shows that improving the work environment of nurses holds the most promise for retaining a qualified and committed nurse workforce, which has obvious benefits for patients in terms of better quality care. Specifically in South Africa, “Managers should make an effort to give praise and recognition to nurses, and provide them with opportunities to participate in the decision making of the hospital while giving attention to good salaries and providing opportunities for advancement and study leave.”
Naturally the shortage of nursing staff in South Africa provides an amazing opportunity for the entrance of new nurses, especially at the degree level. Studies have shown that the better qualified the nurse is the better the patient outcomes, and it naturally goes to say that the better care a nurse is able to provide to a patient, the more job satisfaction she experiences. The NWU deems its tertiary education for nurses as of the best in the country and offers the student several opportunities to obtain either an undergraduate or a postgraduate qualification in nursing.
Approximately 300 students are currently enrolled at the NWU for the Bachelor Curationis (BCur ) program, while about 1500 students are enrolled for a post-basic diploma or postgraduate degree program.