Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo recently estimated there were at least 10 000 unemployed nurses in the province and the situation was unlikely to change in the near future.
Despite this, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) received 14 668 applications for nursing degrees this year.
UKZN’s acting executive director for corporate relations Normah Zondo said most of the hopefuls had been turned away.
“The university can only accommodate 80 students in nursing,” she said.
In the past, Dhlomo criticised the 28 private nursing colleges in KZN saying they trained students at an exorbitant cost without considering whether there were enough posts in the public and private health-care sectors to accommodate them.
“It is sad when you look at the numbers of unemployed people who’ve been trained, largely by the private nursing colleges in the province, going over 10 000.
“When we engaged these private nursing colleges, I asked them, ‘What plan do you have? Why do you keep on training people when there’s no plan to get them into the system?’”
He said the province had even arranged to have unemployed nurses taken to other provinces for job interviews.
“Here and there they’ve been successful but by and large we still remain with over 10 000 nurses who are unemployed,” said Dhlomo.
Londeka Khuzwayo, a student who attempted to register for nursing at a private college in Durban this year, was unsuccessful, being told that “the college will not take any first year nursing students until the year 2020”.
Khuzwayo said the college also informed her that most private nursing institutions in the province were not accepting new nurses this year.
Netcare’s director of nursing and nursing education Shannon Nell said its institutions made provision for nurses to specialise and this minimised the number of students who were unemployed.
“Nursing professionals have the opportunity to become highly specialised in one of the many disciplines of modern medicine.”
She said some of the options after qualifying as a registered nurse included specialisations in paediatrics, neonatal, transplant, trauma and emergency, infection prevention, oncology and renal nursing.
“Considering the dynamic nature of the medical fraternity, there is also more scope for advancement into top administrative and management positions. Anyone considering a career in nursing should gain as much knowledge and experience as they possibly can,” she said.
In the past, the UK and the Middle East were highly sought-after destinations for South African nurses who wanted to improve their employment options and earn in foreign currencies.
Recently, the UK again made a call for nurses from Africa and Asia to fill their 400 000 vacancies.