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International Nurses Day: Celebrating the dedication and selflessness of healthcare heroes worldwide

Celebrations of International Nurses Day in Groote Schuur Hospital. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Celebrations of International Nurses Day in Groote Schuur Hospital. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 12, 2023


As International Nurses Day is celebrated around the globe, it's important to take a moment to celebrate the countless men and women who have dedicated their lives to nursing, often in the most challenging of circumstances.

Nurses like Sister Mabuyi Mnguni are shining examples of the selflessness, dedication, and skill that are the hallmark of this noble profession.

Mnguni's incredible journey as a nurse began over 40 years ago when she trained at McCords and St Mary’s Hospital. From an early age, she was attracted to community health, and this passion has inspired her throughout her long and illustrious career.

Starting as a young nurse in the Ugu District of KwaZulu-Natal, Mnguni's hard work and commitment soon earned her a reputation as one of the most experienced nurses in the field of HIV/Aids care in South Africa.

Sr Mabuyi Mnguni. Celebrating 40 years on – having made her mark as one of South Africa’s most experienced nurses in the field of HIV/Aids care - she has few regrets. Picture: Supplied

Mnguni's work in this area has always been informed by a deep sense of compassion and empathy for those affected by this devastating disease. She believes that every human being has the right to quality healthcare and that nurses have a vital role to play in ensuring that all people, regardless of their background, receive the care that they deserve.

“I chose to be a nurse. I chose this profession. I could’ve done anything, but I wanted to help people”, said Sr Mnguni in conversation.

Sandra Sampson, Director at Allmed Healthcare Professionals, echoes Mnguni's sentiments, emphasising the importance of nurses in the South African healthcare system.

Sampson highlights the fact that nurses are often the first line of defence for patients and that their work is essential in ensuring that people receive the care and support they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

Sandra Sampson, Director at Allmed Healthcare Professionals. Picture: Supplied

She adds: “One of the key issues facing the healthcare industry is the shortage of nurses in South Africa. Nurses are the foundation of healthcare, and they ensure that patients are well looked after, more than often saving lives. However, with a shortage of nurses, it is critical that the nursing workforce is leveraged in the most efficient way possible.”

‘’Further, we need to realise that nurses are essential workers and not just in a state of emergency, like Covid-19, as we saw during the pandemic. We need to actually recognise their outstanding role in the healthcare industry because they are definitely the backbone of healthcare facilities.

‘’We need to celebrate this profession every day and not just one specific day because they deal with patients at their most vulnerable while and usher these patients with care and genuine compassion to recovery,” said Sampson.

While discussing her leadership style in an interview, she emphasised the importance of continual appreciation for her staff.

In response to commonly held negative views of nurses as rude, she urged the public to consider the challenging circumstances that healthcare professionals face in South Africa.

Noting the overwhelming demand for quality care and the shortage of resources to meet that demand, she advised patients to respect that they may not receive the same level of service in public facilities as in private facilities due to differences in patient volume.

She also noted the significant shortage of nurses in South Africa, which impacts patient-to-nurse ratios and places additional strain on healthcare workers.

“Currently, the patient-nurse ratio stands at 1 nurse for 218 patients”, said Sampson, which is gravely alarming.

Despite the many challenges facing nurses in South Africa, including long hours, low pay, and heavy workloads, Mnguni and her colleagues remain committed to their work.

For them, nursing is not just a job - it's a calling. As we celebrate International Nurses Day, let's remember the immense contribution that nurses like Sr Mnguni, Sampson, and many more continue to make to their communities.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.