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Health system has improved, but…

Resource type: News


South African nurses were less likely to stay in the profession than nurses in other parts of the world, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) said on Wednesday.

Denosa general secretary Thembeka Gwagwa said this was one of the findings of a survey that asked more than 2 000 nurses around the world, including 200 in South Africa, about the problems and opportunities facing nurses.

The survey found that when asked to rate the likelihood they would still be in nursing in five years, only 33 percent of nurses in South Africa said they were very likely to still be in the profession.

“Despite advances made so far in our democracy, significant challenges for South Africa’s nurses remain at cross-roads with regards to adequate and equitable distribution of health care infrastructure and health human resources,” Gwagwa said.

“In a country like South Africa, with staggering disease rates and high patient to nurse ratios, it comes down to fight or flight.

“Do we allow the continued flight of nurses out of South Africa, or do we fight as a nation to address nurses’ concerns and protect the health care system so we can provide quality care to our patients?” she asked.

According to the survey, on which the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and Pfizer collaborated, more than half of nurses (53 percent) in South Africa said their workload was worse today when compared to five years ago.

This could negatively impact the quality of patient care and nurses’ commitment to remain in the profession.

Nurses in South Africa indicated that the least favourable aspects of their profession were overwhelming workloads (32 percent), insufficient pay and benefits (22 percent), lack of recognition (11 percent), budget cuts and inadequate health care systems (11 percent).

In contrast, the most favourable aspect was patient contact (39 percent).

In South Africa, as in other countries surveyed, most nurses (85 percent) said they faced time constraints that prevented them from spending as much time with individual patients as they thought necessary.

Some 87 percent of the nurses surveyed in South Africa said spending more time with individual patients would have a significant impact on patient health.

Nurses in South Africa saw their professional associations as effective in advancing their interests (86 percent) and supportive of their needs (87 percent).

In fact, nurses in South Africa were much more likely than nurses in the other countries surveyed to say their professional associations were “very” effective.

Forty-two percent of nurses in South Africa said their associations were very effective when compared to the global average of 17 percent.

South Africa’s nurses also favoured expanding their health care responsibilities, including the authority to prescribe medicines to patients.

Fifty percent said they had the authority to prescribe medicines to patients.

Additionally, eight in ten said they favoured nurses having this authority.

The country’s nurses indicated there were now better opportunities for professional training and career advancement (59 percent) and increased recognition for their contributions as nurses (53 percent) than there were five years ago.

Additionally, 63 percent of nurses perceived the nation’s health care system as better than it was five years ago.

Pfizer South Africa country manager, Brian Daniel, said: “Nurses in South Africa, like nurses worldwide, play a critical role in the delivery of care and the quality of health care.”

“We trust that this research will assist in providing necessary guidance for South African policy makers in the designing of intervention strategies as part of the government’s ongoing efforts to improve our health care system,” he said.

“Nurses globally are thinking about leaving the profession, which will further impact already burdened health care systems, including in countries such as Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.

Worldwide, an estimated 13 million nurses form the backbone of health care systems, working in hospitals, clinics, communities and other settings.

“Nurses represent the largest group of health care providers in the world.” said ICN CEO David Benton.

“These results will inform the Positive Practice Environment campaign ICN and partners are implementing to improve the practice environment and with it the quality of care,” he said.

“It is urgent to respond to their needs with adequate staffing, greater independence and greater involvement in decision-making. Nurses must be involved in crucial policy conversations as health care systems are growing, developing and changing,” Benton added.

The survey was conducted by APCO Insight on 2203 nurses in 11 countries – Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Kenya, Portugal, South Africa, Taiwan, Uganda, the UK, and the US.

Global results and methodology could be viewed at – Sapa

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