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International Nurses Day also highlights local challenges

Thembeka Ntoyanto, a Clinical Nurse Practitioner at Gugulethu Clinic, helps a patient. Picture: City of Cape Town

Thembeka Ntoyanto, a Clinical Nurse Practitioner at Gugulethu Clinic, helps a patient. Picture: City of Cape Town

Published May 11, 2022


CAPE TOWN – While the world is set to celebrate International Nurses Day on Thursday, they day will also serve to highlight challenges in the local healthcare sector which persist.

This year's theme for International Nurses Day is “Nurses A Voice to Lead – Invest in Nursing and Respect Rights to Secure Global Health”.

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Nursing organisation, Denosa in the Northern Cape will be marching to the Premier’s Office over poor health service delivery due to shortage of staff, budget cuts and non-production of nurses for the province from the nursing college.

In a statement, the organisation said there is little to celebrate as the government has continued to “undermine health in our communities and the nurses who are expected to deliver these health services in the province”.

In March, the Western Cape branch of Denosa lead a march to parliament about poor working conditions.

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“Unfortunately, there is nothing to celebrate in 2022. Nurses in the province have seen a continued trend by the government to undermine health in our communities and the nurses who are expected to deliver these health services in the province. Nurses died of Covid-19 because of corrupt officials and politicians who are more interested in filling their pockets than to ensure that nurses and other health workers were safe in their facilities. The employer continued to undermine the HR policies which promote fair practice in the workplace by delaying grade progressions, payments of overtime and allowances, EPMDS cash bonuses to qualifying nurses and, worst of all, the employer continues to promote the stagnation of the nursing profession in the province by not advancing the upgrading of skills, like the various specialities, amongst nurses.”

They added that nursing education in the province has come to a stand-still with no intake of new students over the last three years, including 2022.

“As Denosa we cannot see an intake to the college in the near foreseeable future as the college has not yet been fully accredited for the qualification under the new nursing curriculum. An even bleaker future is painted by the possible reduction in the number of students that the college will admit should it be accredited, that being from 60 students per year to only 30 students per year. When looking at the number of nurses exiting the services on a yearly basis, either through retirement, death or nurses simply searching for greener pastures, the 60 students that were previously admitted, already could not meet the demand of an ever-shrinking nursing fraternity in the province,” a statement by the Northern Cape Denosa branch read.

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Meanwhile, according to research conducted by Stellenbosch University, nurses in long-term care facilities need training in medication and IT.

Nurses provide an important service to the elderly in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) by seeing to it that they (the elderly) receive the right medication and stay healthy in their twilight years. But these nurses also face several challenges as they try to take care of the elderly.

“We found that the nursing workforce in LTCFs is getting older, training is outdated, workloads increase, and information technology skills are lacking,” said Emerentia Nicholson and Anneleen Damons from Stellenbosch University’s Department of Nursing and Midwifery.

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They conducted a study on the age, experience and training, as well as the skill mix of nurses who care for the elderly in LTCFs in the Western Cape and the impact on how they administer medication.

The researchers point out that the majority of nurses were aged between 51 and 60 years, nearing retirement. A few were between the retirement age of 61 and 70 years. Some had been working in LTCFs for nine years or more, while others had less than four years work experience.

“The profile of the nurses in our study indicates an older workforce with experience in care for the elderly. A positive impact of a more aging nursing workforce with work experience is that their skills and knowledge increase as their work experience increase. Consequently, they are less likely to make errors while administering medication.

“On the negative side, older nurses experience diminishing physical abilities and struggled to cope with the job demands, paperwork and new technology. They also have an increased risk of acquiring severe illnesses because of Covid-19.”

According to the researchers, the nurses reported that outdated medication training, pressure to complete drug rounds on time, a heavy workload, poor knowledge of the action and side effects of medications, and a lack of training were some of the common reasons for medication errors.

“Nurses need information technology skills because healthcare professionals increasingly use technology and devices such as computers, mobile devices and software applications. Adequate training in information technology could lead to improved decision-making skills and better competencies.”

Cape Times

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