The lack of qualified nurses is placing a stranglehold on the public health sector in South Africa, but through its commitment to bettering the lives of all South Africans, the North-West University (NWU) is helping to loosen this suffocating grip.
A recent study by the South African Nursing Council (SANC) estimates that there is only one nurse for every 218 patients in the country, with a need for tens of thousands more.
According to Prof Salaminah Moloko-Phiri from the NWU’s research focus area Quality in Nursing and Midwifery (NuMIQ) at the School of Nursing, this is a disastrous predicament for hospitals in rural areas, and especially for those who cannot afford a private medical aid.
“If we look at healthcare professionals in hospitals, who are always present? Who are there 24 hours a day? Nurses. But we as a country need to do more to invest in nursing, as nurses are a beacon of hope to so many patients. Nursing is about sharing, which is one of the principles of ubuntu that all South Africans must pursue. I think that nurses are too often undervalued and this is to the detriment of too many patients who are in desperate need of their expertise,” she explains.
“I am especially worried about the state of public hospitals. They are understaffed and overcrowded, while there is also a shortage of access to both human and material resources.”
One of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is titled Good Health and Well-Being. This entails ensuring healthy lives and the promotion of well-being for all at all ages. The NWU is unwavering in its commitment to helping to achieve this goal, and one of the many ways it is doing this is through its extensive nursing programmes.
In addition to teaching and learning initiatives, the School of Nursing boasts the above-mentioned NuMIQ, which features two dedicated research projects, one of which focuses on a caring presence in nursing. The purpose of this project is to gain a deeper understanding of “presence” and its impact in nursing on nurses and patients, as well as to create awareness of a caring presence in nursing. Here postgraduate students play a major role in conducting research on the topic.
The other dedicated research project is called the Implementation of Neurodevelopmental Supportive Care for Preterm Infants, and it focuses on the quality of life of infants that survive being born preterm. This is an aspect of care that is often under-recognised.
The School of Nursing is also proud to host the Albertina Sisulu Research Chair under Prof Siedine Coetsee. Her programme focuses specifically on staff and patient outcomes.
“I also want to emphasise the need for nurses to further their education, but they need to be given the opportunities to do so. Nurses form part of the backbone of our health sector, and we need to do all that we can to support them,” says Prof Moloko-Phiri.
With the value placed on improving the quality of nursing through research that promotes excellence in teaching-learning, clinical practice, community engagement, innovation and leadership, the NWU has heard the national, desperate cry of too many South Africans as they face health challenges.
It has not fallen on deaf ears.